DEERFIELD — Due to the time difference from the league office in New York, NBA free agency technically started at 11 p.m. Sunday night for the Bulls.
Regardless of when it officially began, the Bulls, just like the rest of the league, are already knee-deep in the middle of the free-agent frenzy.
But it won’t involve pursuing high-profile, maximum-salary players, though there have been reports of the team expressing interest in two names that have been linked to the Bulls in past seasons, scorers Monta Ellis and O.J. Mayo.
More realistic candidates include Chicago native Will Bynum and possibly even Mo Williams, both of whom were reportedly contacted by the Bulls, according to RealGM.com.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman gave a brief synopsis of where the organization stands this summer.
“We can’t use the full mid level [exception] because we’re a tax team. There’s something called the mini-mid level [worth almost $3.2 million per season]. That’s something we talk about all the time and we haven’t cut off that option. Again, I think it’s still a feeling-out period, as far as what the market is and what players are available. But as this point, we’re limited because of being in the tax. But within that, I think we’ll look at every avenue we have in order to get better,” he explained Monday at the Berto Center. “But we’ve got a lot of positive things, I feel, on the horizon for this basketball team.
"We’ve talked about I think we’re on the upward swing. Obviously a key is getting our guys back and healthy on the floor. We’ve got an opportunity a year from now to have some flexibility in order to continue to add to our team, but we like our team where it’s at today and we’ve talked about that.”
Forman revealed that the team has been in touch with three of their own free agents: Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed.
“I have [been in contact with Robinson],” he said in a response to a question about the Bulls’ desire to retain Robinson. “That process just started late last night and we’ve been on the phone with quite a few guys this morning and obviously there’s interest because we’ve got a good team and we’re in a great market with great fans and have a chance to have success, but usually, it takes a while to see where the market’s going, especially when you’re not talking about max-type guys. Sometimes those will break a little bit earlier. Obviously we’re not in that game this summer.”
Not to parse his words, but Forman’s quick response about Robinson, then focus on free agency in general could reflect the reality that the diminutive scorer, while a fan favorite for his postseason heroics, is unlikely to be back in Chicago next season.
Regarding Belinelli, Forman was a bit more expansive in his answer, saying: “Same thing. Obviously we reached out to Marco and his representatives right away. We’ve got interest in talking to him about coming back and similar [to Robinson], I think he needs to get a feel for the market, as do we.”
As far as Mohammed, Forman confirmed the fact that the veteran backup center, a Chicago native, will likely remain in his hometown next season.
“He’s a guy we’d like to have back. Really like Nazr. I think, first of all, it’s good to have veterans like Nazr that have been around the league, that understand what it takes to be successful,” he said. “I think he’s great in our locker room, I think he’s great on the practice floor and I think he was very good in games, especially late in the year. It just gives you a veteran inside presence. We’ve talked to Nazr and I think we’re optimistic that he’ll return.”