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Bulls' Gar Forman: 'We're Going Into The Tax'

By Cody Westerlund--

(CBS) The Bulls don't believe the luxury tax will get in the way of their pursuit of free agent Mike Dunleavy.

Assuming the Bulls sign All-Star wing Jimmy Butler to a maximum-level contract in restricted free agency starting around $16 million in 2015-'16 and that reserve guard Kirk Hinrich exercises his player option of nearly $3 million, Chicago will have about $80 million committed to 10 players: Derrick Rose, Butler, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, Hinrich and first-round draft pick Bobby Portis.

The luxury tax has been estimated at $81.6 million, and the Bulls are operating as if they'll have to surpass it, general manager Gar Forman said. Teams that go into the luxury tax must pay penalties for doing so, and those penalties escalate for repeat offenders. The Bulls have only gone into the luxury tax once -- in 2012-'13. They avoided it in 2013-'14 by trading Luol Deng to the Cavaliers.

"We like the core of this team, Derrick getting healthy, Jimmy making strides" Forman said in an interview Thursday night on 670 The Score. "I have talked about improvement now has got to be internal because we're not going to have flexibility this summer. We're going into the tax, so we don't have money to spend per se in free agency. But we think we have good depth. We think we have a core of guys who have been together and have faced adversity. Sometimes you have to face that adversity to get over the hump and get where you want to go."

The Bulls' contract commitments mean they can't chase outside free agents with anything more than veteran's minimum deals and perhaps a form of the mid-level exception, but such limitations don't apply to bringing back their own free agents like Dunleavy, who averaged 9.4 points and shot nearly 41 percent from 3-point range while starting 63 games last season.

The 34-year-old Dunleavy's an unrestricted free agent who made $3 million in 2014-'15. His market value is likely around the same now.

"I don't know," Forman said. "We really like Mike and would like to have Mike back. And Mike was has been a very, very good player for us these last couple of years -- he had shooting, veteran leadership, a lot of things. I know in our conversations with Mike, he's really enjoyed a part of being with this team and this organization. So I know he's very interested in coming back. Usually when both sides want the same thing, you can find some common ground and get something done. So we're optimistic we can."

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

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