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Forman: Deng’s a core man

9-15-10 Sports Joe Cowley. Staff Mug. phoby Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

9-15-10 Sports Joe Cowley. Staff Mug. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

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NBA Summer League At Las Vegas • Point guard Marquis Teague and draft picks Tony Snell (No. 20 overall) and Erik Murphy (No. 49) highlight the Bulls’ 13-man roster.

• Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin will coach the team.Schedule

Saturday: Bulls 81, Grizzlies 67

Monday: Bulls 93, Nuggets 81

Tuesday: Bulls 80, Blazers 78 (OT)

After the preliminary schedule, the Bulls will be seeded in a tournament-style circuit to determine the summer-league champion. Each team is guaranteed to play at least five games. The championship game is Monday.

LAS VEGAS — Finally, some clarity.

Not just speculation or offseason rumors, but some good old-fashioned, here’s-the-plan talk from Bulls general manager Gar Forman.

A plan that will include All-Star forward Luol Deng staying put for at least one more season.

“Well, we love Luol,’’ said Forman, who arrived Monday to watch summer-league play. “We see Luol as a valuable member of this team moving forward, so the window is open to talk about an extension. We’ve had some conversations. Whether something gets done, I don’t know. But whether it’s this summer or next, those are conversations we’ll continue to have.’’

And conversations they have time to have.

Deng becomes a free agent after the 2013-14 season. There had been rumors floating around that the Bulls were shopping Deng earlier this summer, but Forman said that wasn’t the case.

With Derrick Rose deemed 100 percent for the start of preseason after missing all of 2012-13 with the torn left anterior cruciate ligament, the decision had been made early on to let this core group of Rose, Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have one more go at it.

“I mean our goal has been to bring this group back, and I know [Deng’s] name was floated out there [in trade rumors], but we didn’t initiate calls,’’ Forman said. “We’ve gotten calls on some of our guys, but our goal has been to bring this group back healthy.’’

After this season, all bets are off.

Deng can test the market, and Boozer can be amnestied with just one more year on his contract. That would still keep a core of Noah, Rose and Jimmy Butler together, but also give Forman and the Bulls a financial flexibility they haven’t had in years.

It will allow them to at least be players in LeBron James’ next decision.

“Here’s the thing: We put this team together, and then the new CBA came out,’’ Forman said. “The new CBA is very restrictive in your ability to improve your basketball team because it’s taken away a lot of the avenues there are to continue to build your team. So I’ve talked about it as almost a stock-market correction.

“We like our team, we have a good group of guys, but we haven’t had flexibility. Next summer will be the first chance we have to have some level of flexibility in order to add to the team.’’

Adding another big-name player to the roster won’t be the only business at hand next summer. They also can start talking to prized draft pick Nikola Mirotic, who has been displaying some serious game in the Spanish league since the Bulls selected him 23rd in the 2011 draft.

“We knew [Mirotic] wouldn’t be able to come under the rookie-scale slot that he was drafted, so we knew it would be at least three years,’’ Forman said. “And it could be longer, but we’re hopeful at that point there will be an opportunity to bring him over.’’

That, however, is talk for next summer. Forman’s mind-set now is one more run at the Miami Heat with an all-too-familiar group.

“Like I said from when we started this process with these guys, I don’t want to put a ceiling on what they could become,’’ Forman said of his Big Four. “I think they’ve shown, when healthy, we can have a certain level of success.’’



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