LaVine, 27, is expected to remain a Bull, according to a June 14 Bleacher Report story by Jake Fischer.
“Two-time All-Star Zach LaVine is expected to re-sign with the Chicago Bulls once the free-agency negotiation period opens June 30, sources told B/R,” LaVine wrote. “LaVine’s free agency has generated plenty of conversation among NBA personnel over the past few weeks. But despite rumblings … the coveted swingman is likely to remain with his current team.”
Fischer’s report comes nearly weeks after the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley reported that the Bulls were prepared to take the “leap of faith” and four days after NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reported that the Bulls’ core (which includes LaVine) is expected to return next season.
Much Ado About Nothing
Fischer previously had reported that LaVine was dissatisfied with his place in the Bulls’ pecking order, behind DeMar DeRozan. But that has either changed or, more likely, was never a serious issue.
It is not all cut and dried, though, because LaVine and the Bulls were still negotiating, according to Fischer.
Fischer reported on the June 9 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast” that the Bulls’ initial offer to Lavine was short of a full max. He added that the team’s stance had since changed and that they were expected to, in fact, offer the max.
Language appears to still be a hurdle, though.
“Ironing out LaVine’s next deal appears centered on the fifth year of the contract,” Fischer wrote in the Bleacher Report story. “LaVine is eligible for a five-year deal totaling roughly $200 million. Whether that season is fully guaranteed, is a player option or nets other potential outcomes remains to be seen.”
That would seem to be a formality if the goal is to sign him to the max deal that he seeks.
‘My Best Friend’
LaVar Ball, father the Bulls’ Lonzo Ball, and NBA writer Marc Stein have speculated that LaVine has been upset with his place on the team, but Bulls commentator Stacey King and Bulls forward Javonte Green summarily dismissed those rumors, though.
Perhaps the biggest sign there’s no friction was made evident when the team released on June 12 an offseason hype video, in which DeRozan refers to LaVine as his “best friend” and LaVine makes note of the team’s special makeup.
Fischer, who noted in his piece that an optimal situation for LaVine might not exist outside of Chicago, wrote about how the Bulls plan to build out their roster around the LaVine and DeRozan.
“Among the teams in play for LaVine, only San Antonio could offer a clear No. 1 playmaking opportunity, and the Spurs are considered far off from the postseason environment LaVine prefers, leading to skepticism among rival executives that LaVine ever wanted to entertain options outside of Chicago,” he wrote.
Heavy’s Sean Deveney reported on May 25 that some league executives have speculated that LaVine’s representation, Klutch Sports Group, tried to force the Bulls’ hand by stirring rumors about LaVine’s desire to leave Chicago.
It appears it may have been necessary given their initial offer. But that is why they considered the efforts “mission accomplished,” per Deveney. If the Bulls get to keep their still-improving star, they will consider this offseason similarly.
Keeping the Band Together
Fischer reported that the Bulls view DeRozan and LaVine as their two “linchpins,” which might not seem to bode well for center Nikola Vucevic. But Johnson reported on the June 10 episode of the “Bulls Talk” podcast” that Vucevic was under the impression that he would return next season.
Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, has been adamant about continuity being king in his eyes. But Vucevic’s heading into the final year of his deal could impact their decision.