The Bulls might lead the league in financial creativity, and when bonuses threatened to push them back above the luxury tax line, they called in a favor from the Utah Jazz.
When the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer to a free agent deal, they worked it out with Utah to turn it into a S&T. This didn't get Boozer more money as the original terms stayed the same, nor did it get the Bulls more assets. The only practical outcome of the deal was that a giant traded player exception was created for the Jazz.
Utah used it to bring over Al Jefferson, a move they couldn't have done without the Bulls help. Chicago did it on a "you owe us one basis". That one was cashed in this weekend when the Bulls waived Erik Murphy. The move made no sense on the surface, it wouldn't save Chicago any money and would actually force them to add another player to the payroll costing them something minimal.
However, it all came together when the Jazz claimed Murphy off waivers. You typically never see another team claim a player, and while Murphy's contract is friendly enough that they could actually consider taking a look, the most likely scenario is that this was all worked out prior to the Bulls waiving Murphy.
They were happy he'd have a new landing spot, perhaps one where he might even get on the court for a few minutes before season's end, and the Jazz got to cross one off the 'debt' list by paying the Bulls back for that S&T.
Once Murphy was claimed off waivers his contract officially goes to the Jazz's books. The Bulls still paid him this whole year, but for luxury tax computations his salary is no longer theirs, similar to when a player is traded. The move bought the Bulls an extra 490k in salary room pushing the below the tax barrier by enough to pay off 750k of bonuses and sign a player for the rest of the season/playoffs.
The Bulls will eventually need to sign someone to fill out the roster. They worked out Ronnie Brewer already, but the fact that he hasn't signed yet implies that perhaps the workout didn't go so well. Brewer tore his meniscus and hasn't been able to catch on in the league since then playing on a bunch of minimum contracts.
People keep saying guys fully recover from these injuries, but it's hard for me to believe that a 100% healthy Ronnie Brewer can't find a minimum salaried contract in this league. While Brewer's jump shot was completely broken, he played amazing defense and was a disruptive type of defender who could build momentum with steals, deflections, and physicality.
When he was with the Bulls I would have trusted his defense more than Luol Deng's [and wouldn't have viewed it as particularly close], but even the Bulls seem likely to pass on him at this point. It seems this way with a lot of guys with knee injuries. I tend to think you always lose something, hopefully Derrick Rose is good enough that losing that something still leaves him as an elite player.
Race for the third seed
The three seed just keeps looking better and better with every Indiana game, as the Pacers just continue to struggle. The Bulls and Raptors have identical records with five games each to go.
The Bulls biggest two fights are likely @Minnesota and @New York. While the Raptors will play the Knicks twice sprinkled with easy games otherwise. What really potentially makes the difference is the outcome of the Knicks playoff chase. With the Knicks down three games down in the loss column to Atlanta, it's likely that they'll be officially eliminated from the playoffs prior to the the season finale.
Possibly prior to when they play the Bulls, particularly if they lose to the Raptors.
It looks like the Bulls may have to win out to even have a chance at the #3 seed, and it certainly looks like the Raptors have a good shot at winning out as well. It will be interesting to see if either team drops a game to a team they shouldn't as well. The Bulls are prone to horrible shooting nights occasionally, and it wouldn't surprise me if the did.
It's hard for me to see the Bulls winning 10 straight to end the year which is the feat they'd like need to accomplish in order to get the three seed. How amazing would it be to see the Bulls win 50 without Derrick Rose though? It's really a credit to how great a player Joakim Noah has become.