When Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine said he was looking for “respect” with his next contract and talking about how he has “outplayed” his current deal over the summer, it raised a few eyebrows. He wasn’t wrong in his assessment, but the way in which he framed it definitely left some Bulls fans feeling queasy.
Still, a team insider believes that the two parties are in this thing for the long haul.
NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson made an appearance on the October 27 episode of The HoopsHype Podcast with Michael Scotto, during which he spilled the tea on all things Bulls. In doing so, he offered an encouraging update on LaVine’s possible extension.
“I’d say every indication I’ve been given both internally from his side and the organization is this is a match made to move forward together,” Johnson told Scotto.
Committed to Their Cornerstone
As Johnson sees it, the Bulls wouldn’t have made a lot of their recent personnel moves if they didn’t have LaVine in mind. They’re literally building around him.
“I don’t think you expend the draft capital this regime has doled out in the [Nikola] Vucevic trade and the [DeMar] DeRozan acquisition without doing everything in your power to appease your No. 1 player and to try and win now,” he said.
The offseason move to bring in floor general Lonzo Ball has likely sweetened the pot as well. Roster tweakage aside, though, Johnson believes that LaVine has reveled in his role as the Bulls’ cornerstone, too.
“He has really embraced being the face of the franchise ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, even when they were bad. He’s always been front and center as the star of the team, always available media-wise, he’s a good representative of the franchise, he loves living in Chicago, he loves the history and legacy of the franchise,” he said.
“I personally have always felt this was headed for a long-term extension.”
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Whether or not the Bulls’ unique mix will prove successful long-term remains to be seen. The early returns are encouraging, though. Through four games, the Bulls sit atop the Eastern Conference with a perfect 4-0 record. They also boast the league’s No. 2 defensive rating at 97.7. Meanwhile, LaVine is averaging 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest.
One thing is certain — the 26-year-old stands to net a significant chunk of change if he opts to remain in the Windy City.
“We know the Bulls have the ability to pay him more than any other franchise,” reminded Johnson. “There’s also not a lot of cap space out there this summer.”
Just how much money he can get is up in the air, but some things may be breaking in LaVine’s favor.
“With the funky situations with Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving, are there some All-NBA spots up for grabs in the backcourt in the league? If he earns that distinction, he’s super-max eligible,” he added. “There are a million reasons why I think he’s going to be here long-term.”