Future Still Up In Air For Bulls' Robin Lopez

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- While center Robin Lopez remained a member of the Bulls as the NBA trade deadline passed at 2 p.m. Thursday, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll be with the organization much longer.

The 30-year-old Lopez is a buyout candidate as he's in the final year of his contract and not a part of the rebuilding Bulls' long-term plans. In the immediate aftermath the trade deadline frenzy, it appeared that could be the path Lopez and the team are heading down. The sides are expected to soon conducted discussions about a contract buyout, ESPN reported. If they did so and cleared waivers, he could then sign with a contending team.

The parties just aren't there yet, with executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson making clear this isn't a simple equation for the Bulls. Traditionally, the Bulls have been reluctant to use the buyout provision, preferring not to dump useful players onto the open market at no cost for foes.

"I know there’s a lot of talk and rumor around the league about buyouts," Paxson said. "We have not spoken about that. Internally as an organization, the discussions we have had center around the whole buyout process in general, and in a lot of ways, it hurts the trade market when there’s all this belief that guys are going to be bought out. I certainly think it hurt us in this case. So we are not committed to anything right now.

"My feeling right now – it can change – but Robin will be with us. Our players love him, he’s a great teammate, he’s a good guy. We don’t feel it necessary – and again I’m speaking today, lock and chains – but we don’t feel it’s an absolute given that we have to just buy a guy out to help another team."

Given Lopez's professionalism and leadership amid the past two trying seasons, the Bulls may budge on their usual stance in this case. It was a year ago at this time that the Bulls, in the first season of their rebuild, informed Lopez they'd be removing him from the starting lineup as they looked to further evaluate young players. He was then benched for long stretches, effectively taking one for the team.

Through it all, Lopez encouraged teammates and never complained while setting a positive tone in practice and striking a humorous note in interactions with the media. To this point, he hasn't publicly indicated if he wants a buyout.

"I’m a basketball player," Lopez said when asked what he wants out of the rest of this season. "I’m going to compete every night, play some good ball and get better."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.