The Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine continuing their union appears imminent following the latest report from NBA correspondent, Marc Stein. This comes after several weeks of speculation over the two-time All-Star’s plans as a first-time unrestricted free agent and Klutch Sports client.
At one point, league sources told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that the Rich Paul-led group was largely responsible for the “leaks” of a potential exit from Chicago.
Many have maintained his return was the most likely event given the $55 million dollars and the extra year of certainty left on the table if he left. Then, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported that sources close to the players were intimating that he never truly wanted to leave.
Stein’s report takes things a step further.
Thanks, But No Thanks
This new intel comes in Stein’s latest update on LaVine and his co-star from a 2021 Mountain Dew commercial and New Orleans Pelicans forward, Zion Williamson. Per Stein, the buzz surrounding both stars’ potential exits has dwindled.
It builds off of Fischer’s reporting.
“I’ve since been told that similar messaging has been conveyed to teams that were plotting to make a run at prying LaVine away from the Bulls.”
Stein previously reported on LaVine’s perceived availability and a rumored rift with co-star, DeMar DeRozan. The rumor, purported by LaVar Ball, has been refuted on two separate occasions including in an interview with WARR Media’s Joshua M. Hicks.
LaVine had been linked to several teams, mostly in the Western Conference.
It appears, though, that LaVine’s words in his exit interview about appreciating what has transpired with the Bulls over the past two seasons are true. In addition to his own development, the roster has been dramatically upgraded.
Now it’s up to Bulls vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, to continue building out this roster through the upcoming draft (June 23), free agency (July 1), or a trade.
Speaking of Trades and Rumors
Stein also notes that the Bulls’ rumored interest in Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has persisted. But Fischer reports that they are not inclined to include forward Patrick Williams in the deal. That would presumable take any deal for the French big man off of the table.
The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry and Tony Jones both agree Williams would have to be included in any package for the four-time All-NBA center.
This puts an emphasis on another deal coming to fruition or Karnisovas batting 1.000 on his improvement on the margins. They are about to be even more constrained financially once LaVine officially signs his max contract worth $212 million.
That was thought to be a point of contention between the two sides.
Not so much because of the dollar amount as it was the level of guarantee over the final yea, per Fischer. Front Office Podcast host, Keith Smith speculated that LaVine would want in full given his injury history in a June 14 episode.
With the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley reporting that the Bulls would take a “leap of faith” and offer LaVine the full max, it appears that chasm was closing. But Stein’s report is still not the final nail.
That will not come until LaVine officially inks his new contract, whenever that is.
Bulls Still Have Work to Do
If anything, retaining LaVine puts even more emphasis on the organization to get this offseason right. They weathered a lot of injuries last season, as LaVine noted. Other members of the team have expressed their desire to “run it back” including DeRozan.
LaVine has stopped short of saying that explicitly to this point. But re-signing would be the best form of confirmation the Bulls and their fans could get.
Until then, we can only read the tea leaves.