With guard Kyrie Irving bound for Mavericks, where does that leave Bulls?

The Bulls have been churning in trade rumors since November, and that only will heat up with the deadline looming Thursday. Now that the Nets dealt Irving Sunday, will trade talks heat up leaguewide?

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Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler.

Kyrie Irving once was open to joining Jimmy Butler with the Bulls.

There was a time point guard Kyrie Irving wanted to be a Bull.

One small caveat: It was 5½ years ago, and it was only to play alongside Jimmy Butler.

In 2017, a month before Irving told the Cavaliers he was looking to get out of Cleveland, the Sun-Times reported Butler and Irving were trying to team up in an effort to bring Irving to the Bulls. The two had become close friends during their time with Team USA and wanted that to continue in the NBA.

Butler told then-general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson that Irving wanted to make the move. He even offered a backup option that would have brought in the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry if the Bulls couldn’t pull off a trade for Irving.

Weeks later, it didn’t matter.

Paxson and Forman opted for a rebuild, trading Butler to the Timberwolves on draft night. Irving eventually informed the Cavs about his preferred destinations, and it was no surprise the Bulls no longer were on his list. Instead, he ended up with the Celtics.

Why is this relevant now that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley are running the Bulls?

Well, with the trade deadline looming Thursday, there once again were rumors about Irving and the Bulls swirling.

A recent report said executives from around the league thought the Bulls were one of the teams interested in Irving after he asked the Nets to trade him. But that talk was extinguished Sunday, when ESPN reported the Nets were trading Irving and Markieff Morris to the Mavericks for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and multiple draft picks.

So were the Bulls even in on Irving? It would have made sense, given that they have the talent to make such a move, are underachieving and are led by Karnisovas, who has shown a willingness to take some risks in his first few years in charge.

The Sun-Times also reported last week that the Bulls had no plans to be sellers at the deadline and, in fact, might be looking to add for a playoff push, especially at point guard.

Lonzo Ball (left knee) is expected to be shut down for the rest of the season sometime in the next few weeks, and the Bulls have been inconsistent at point guard, especially in the fourth quarter of games.

Irving would have made sense basketball-wise because he can play on or off the ball, but a team source said he was never on the Bulls’ radar. Neither is the Lakers’ Russell Westbrook, another point guard the Bulls have been linked to since November.

Karnisovas based the Bulls’ entire offseason last summer on continuity, and that remains unchanged. But as coach Billy Donovan pointed out Saturday, the week of the trade deadline is always fluid.

Front offices across the NBA will start getting more aggressive now that Irving has been traded, and that means the Bulls will have to decide whether to stay the course or stray from it if the right trade comes along.

Donovan, however, said he doesn’t think anything has reached the serious stage yet.

‘‘There’s nothing that [Karnisovas has] really talked to me where he’s said, ‘Hey, listen, we’re close on this or close on that,’ ’’ Donovan said.

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