With another loss, the Chicago Bulls faced even more questions about how they are handling the swirling trade rumors, particularly around star shooting guard Zach LaVine, amid their three-game losing streak.
“It won’t [impact the locker room],” DeRozan said via NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Talk on X on November 17. “You play in this league long enough, that’s just something you gotta deal with. If it’s not personally, it’s with a teammate. It’s just part of the game. It’s not preschool. We all grown men. We understand what comes with the territory when you signed up for it.”
The Bulls successfully navigated trade rumors last season.
But bringing back the same group for the second year in a row – with multiple players citing this third season as potentially pivotal – with continued diminishing returns has ratcheted up the pressure a few notches.
LaVine has always said he understood the rumors, even if he didn’t always appreciate them. But his tone this time around left some feeling as though the winds of change were swirling.
“The reports are the reports, and that’s kind of the NBA drama rumor mill that goes on every year and seems to follow the best players in the league wherever they go,” Alex Caruso said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago on November 17. “The big thing for us is to focus on how we can be a better team and win games so nothing happens.’’
While Caruso has never been traded, DeRozan and Torrey Craig have.
“That’s just part of the NBA, man. Trades happen all the time in the NBA. That’s just part of being a professional and being an athlete. It’s something you have to deal with,” Craig said, per Johnson. “We let the business side focus on that.”
“Whether if it’s speculation, rumors – whatever it may be – it comes with it,” DeRozan said. “You can’t let outside things affect what goes on internally.”
DeMar DeRozan’s Comments Timely Amid Zach Lavine Trade Rumors
DeRozan’s comments are poignant in light of LaVine’s most recent remarks following the loss to the Magic. It is their second straight loss to the Magic this season and the third time in a row dating back to last season. Asked if the Bulls are making the proper adjustments during games, LaVine seemingly pointed the finger back at head coach Billy Donovan.
“I mean, the players are doing everything they can,” LaVine said, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic on November 17. “I know everybody’s trying to do the best they can. We’ve just got to figure out something that works.”
According to Johnson on November 14, tension remains between Donovan and LaVine from the former benching the latter – versus the Magic no less – last season.
Johnson reported on Donovan’s denial of getting that sense from LaVine on November 15.
“He’s always been very welcoming when I’ve come out [to California],” Donovan said. “We’ve always had really good conversations. He’s always responsive to text messages and phone calls. So I haven’t seen anything where it’s like, ‘OK, this guy has really pushed himself all the way over here and he’s just totally disconnected from everybody.
“I would think that if there’s anything he’d want to talk to a teammate about or a coach about or me about that he as a man would come up and do that. I do think our conversations have been very open and honest. And I think he has worked hard at the relationship just as I have.”
Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reported that sources familiar with the situation say LaVine is ready to play for a new coach.
Donovan received an extension in virtual secrecy ahead of last season.
Bulls’ Push for ‘Continuity’ Has Backfired
LaVine is in year two of a five-year, $215 million contract. He is also said to have a laundry list of agreeable landing spots. But the most damning part of it all is that he is said to believe the Bulls’ roster is not good enough to compete as currently constructed. This is largely the same roster that turned their frustrations toward him at one point last season.
The 4-9 record may or may not be a wake-up call for the front office and ownership.
The front office, in particular, has shown patience seemingly to a fault. They have largely stood pat on a roster with one playoff win in their three-plus seasons in charge.
It is harder to ignore the sentiments and actions of the highest-played player in franchise history. Especially when a big part of executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley’s jobs were to re-establish the organization’s credibility.