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Bulls waive Rondo, Canaan, re-sign Felicio as free agency opens

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a time out in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 662354563

Two “alphas’’ down, one left.

A week after they started down the rebuild route on draft night, the Bulls made an expected move official Friday, waiving veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and ending a yearlong roller-coaster ride since Rondo was signed last July. Guard Isaiah Canaan also was waived Friday after one season.

The Bulls had to decide whether to keep Rondo, 31, and pay him $13.4 million next season or buy him out for $3 million, making him eligible for free agency starting Saturday. The choice was easier after the Bulls pulled the trigger on their biggest “alpha,” trading Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves on June 22 for guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, as well as swapping first-round picks.

Rondo’s exit means Dwyane Wade is the last of the three big stars remaining, but for how long?

Wade picked up his player option for $23.8 million last week, but multiple sources have told the Sun-Times he’ll be asking for a buyout.

However, asking and receiving are two different things. Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said earlier in the week that a buyout hasn’t yet been discussed, but “in this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us.”

It was Rondo who coined the term “Three Alphas’’ last summer, referring to himself and Wade joining Butler in Chicago. But his stay quickly turned bumpy. Coach Fred Hoiberg benched him by late December, telling him he was playing too slowly. The Bulls looked to trade him in January.

However, he quickly regained traction after he ripped Wade and Butler in an Instagram post for publicly questioning the effort and heart of their teammates. After Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams stumbled in holding down the starting point-guard spot and Cameron Payne — acquired at the trade deadline — proved to be a disaster, the Bulls were forced to lean on Rondo down the stretch. He not only helped secure a playoff spot but was key in putting the top-seeded Celtics on the ropes in the first round of the playoffs as the Bulls won the first two games in Boston. But a broken right thumb and injured wrist sidelined him, and the Bulls lost four in a row without him.

At the end of the season, Paxson had said there was a “really good chance” of Rondon coming back, citing his influence and popularity with the Bulls’ young players. Instead, an organizational change of direction has altered those plans.

Rondo appeared in 69 games, averaging 7.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists.

The Bulls and big man Cristiano Felicio reportedly agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal. Felicio, a restricted free agent, averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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