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Deng agrees to six-year, $71 mil deal with Bulls
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Luol Deng inked a six-year, $71 million deal with the Bulls, according to sources.


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Published: 7/29/2008 10:55 PM

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The night before Luol Deng was scheduled to depart for a two-month trip to play for the Great Britain national team, he and the Bulls finally agreed on a new contract.

The deal is worth $71 million over six years, according to a league source. With incentives, it could grow to $80 million over the life of the contract.

Deng's lead negotiator, Jason Levien, said two weeks ago that once Deng left the country, they planned to cease talks with the Bulls. Deng's camp felt negotiations had carried on long enough. If they couldn't make a deal by the time Deng went to England, Levien might ask the Bulls to work out a sign-and-trade deal.

The other alternative was for Deng to sign a one-year qualifying offer worth $4.45 million and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But Deng said all along he wanted to stay with the Bulls. Levien traveled to Chicago on Tuesday morning to meet face-to-face with Bulls general manager John Paxson in hopes of getting a deal done.

Though nothing has been signed yet, Deng postponed his flight to London and expects to attend a news conference announcing the contract later this week, most likely on Thursday.

In the past few days, three other restricted free agents landed new deals, which helped establish a market value and surely played a role in the Bulls reaching an agreement with Deng.

Golden State signed guard Monta Ellis for a reported $66 million over six years and center Andris Biedrins for $63 million over six years. Charlotte center Emeka Okafor agreed to a deal worth a reported $72 million over six years on Monday.

The Bulls appeared to raise their offer significantly over the past few days. Deng's best season came in 2006-07 when he averaged 18.8 points and 7.1 rebounds. Last season, the 6-foot-8 forward missed time with back and Achilles injuries. He posted 17.0 points and 6.3 boards in an all-around disappointing season for the Bulls.

Great Britain is scheduled to play six games in European championship qualifying beginning Sept. 3. Deng, 23, was born in Sudan, but spent most of his early years living in London and was granted a British passport last year.

Now the question is whether the Bulls will come to an agreement with their other significant restricted free agent, guard Ben Gordon. The Bulls are concerned about not paying the luxury tax and once Deng's deal becomes official, with a first-year salary of $9.4 million, they will have less than $8 million to work with next season before hitting the luxury tax threshold.

If the Bulls do re-sign Gordon, they would face a crowded backcourt with Gordon, first-round draft pick Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha. One of those players _ most likely Gordon, Hinrich or Hughes _ figures to be moved before the season begins.