Three straight wins have changed the vibe surrounding the Chicago Bulls (14-18). The doubts that resurfaced over their four-game losing streak have, at least momentarily, subsided as they ride the high of their first three-game winning streak of the season.
This one also felt a bit more legit than either of the last two over the short-handed Miami Heat or the enigmatic Atlanta Hawks.
The Bulls still needed every second on the clock.
But their 118-117 win over the New York Knicks was also like coming full circle against a team who beat them in back-to-back outings, the latter of which was “embarrassing” according to Zach LaVine. The subject of renewed trade rumors amid the Bulls’ slide, LaVine took a moment out to dispel one increasingly popular rumor regarding his tenure in Chicago.
LaVine Shuts Down Rumors
“Zach LaVine said on the Bulls postgame radio show that all of the rumors lately about this team is just ‘outside noise’,” tweeted Chicago sports reporter Daniel Greenberg adding that LaVine notes the Bulls are a “very close” group.
Shams Charania and Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic reported on multiple locker room meetings and 1-on-1 discussions between LaVine and teammate DeMar DeRozan.
The source of the contention was LaVine’s defense and carelessness with the Ball.
But a later report from Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney stated that a rival executive believed LaVine also wanted to find his way to the Los Angeles Lakers who were a popular hypothetical destination for the two-time All-Star this summer before he signed his five-year, $215 max contract with the Bulls.
He tried to dispel the rumors some after the win over Miami.
“I didn’t come up with the report,” LaVine said dismissively. “It didn’t come from my mouth. It didn’t come from DeMar’s. It didn’t come from [Nikola Vucevic]’s. So I don’t get how these opinions are being put on me like I said something.”
LaVine was averaging 21.8 points on 55.5% true shooting with 4.0 assists to 2.6 turnovers before the Bulls’ 150-126 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, since that game – which featured the blowup during halftime – he has averaged 25.3 points on 65.5% true shooting with 5.0 assists and 1.3 turnovers while still maintaining a 1.0 steal-per-game pace.
“I think everybody goes through ups and downs, just like every team does,” LaVine said of the veracity of The Athletic’s report. “Obviously if we’re not winning games, not everybody’s going to be happy. It’s not going to look as good as it was before. It’s all glitter and show when you’re winning games.”
Bulls Needed This
These wins did more than just quell the “outside noise” for the time being. They also kept the Bulls in the thick of things for the Eastern Conference. Despite the rough start, they are just one half-game out of the final spot in the Play-In Tournament.
They are also just 3.5 games back of the Knicks for the final guaranteed spot in the playoffs with more than half the season still ahead of them.
Next up is a home date versus the Houston Rockets that begins a four-game homestand. But the Bulls will not get to rest on their laurels. That stand – which follows a four-game road trip – will feature the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers who sit second and third in the Eastern Conference, respectively.
They will get to prove if they are truly back or not.