Away from trade rumors, commercials, and endorsements – away from the spotlight – Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine puts in work. The former two-time All-Star is taking advantage of having a healthy offseason.
“New day same routine,” LaVine shared in an Instagram post on July 24 along with images of himself getting some gym time in.
Markkanen and LaVine were first-year Bulls at the same time in 2017 when they were part of the package sent to Chicago by the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler. The former was just a 20-year-old rookie while LaVine, although going into his fourth NBA season, was coming off a torn ACL.
Lauri Markkanen One of Many Cautionary Tales for Bulls
Those teams never won more than the 27 games they won that ensuing season with back-to-back 22-win efforts following right after. They did win 31 games in 2020-21 but Markkanen was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal that offseason.
“It got to a point that it wasn’t that much fun anymore, the last two years in Chicago,” Markkanen said, per Shams Charania of The Athletic in November 2022.
The Cavs traded Markkanen to the Jazz in a package for Donovan Mitchell last offseason and the now-26-year-old 7-footer averaged 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists while shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc for Utah this past season. It’s anyone’s guess whether or not he could have reached these heights had he stayed in Chicago.
Two years later, Markkanen is the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player.
For their part, the Bulls can add his name to the dirty laundry list of players they moved off of before said player fully realized their potential.
The list includes Butler.
It also has names like Wendell Carter Jr. of the Orlando Magic whom they traded as part of a package for Nikola Vucevic. But there are players with even less star power – like Spencer Dinwiddie or Max Strus – who have proven to be valuable contributors elsewhere.
Bulls Avoiding Habit of Giving Up
Those players’ current exploits mean little for the Bulls now but it should be instructive going forward even as LaVine has found himself mired in trade rumors dating back to the trade deadline. The Bulls are said to have held talks with at least the three teams – the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers – in some capacity regarding a trade for LaVine.
He just signed a five-year, $215 million contract just last offseason; the richest deal in franchise history.
He’s also not new to trade rumors.
“It is always rumors,” LaVine said, per Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago on July 13. “I’ve been with the Bulls for seven years. I’ve had my name in trade talks. You don’t love it, but you understand the business. I’ve been traded before, so you understand it.”
To that end, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has maintained a high asking price for Lavine with some saying it’s too high even. Perhaps that paints a better picture of their true intentions than varying degrees of conversations behind closed doors.
LaVine, 28, is older than the aforementioned players the Bulls moved off of prematurely. But those decisions could very well explain Karnisovas’ steadfast nature with this current core.