This is a critical season for the Chicago Bulls and the idea that this core group could be on its last legs potentially just got another significant boost.
“For how explosive we are as individually, it hasn’t been shown as a unit,” LaVine said via the team on October 2. “So we have to do a better job with that, and it’s been 3 years of it. It’s time to put pen to paper and actually see some results.”
LaVine’s comments come after center Nikola Vucevic said this core was running out of time.
“We know we can do better, and we have to do better,” Vučević said, per Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer on August 31. “And we know it’s kind of our last chance as this core of guys to do something.”
This offseason saw the Bulls surface in several trade rumors. Although nothing came to fruition, the noise surrounding them reflected the reality: this team is 86-78 in the regular season but has just one playoff game victory over the last two seasons to show for it and a core headed by an aging triumvirate.
LaVine, the youngest of the Bulls’ big three, will turn 29 years old in March. Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan’s respective games should age well but both are over 30 years old.
The Bulls gave LaVine a five-year, $215 million contract last offseason.
He has the most contractual security of the Bulls’ top trio. At least for now with Vucevic inking a three-year, $60 million contract this offseason but DeRozan in the final year of his three-year, $81.9 million pact.
Zach LaVine on Trade Rumors: ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire’
Even with that, rumors have surrounded him this offseason with the Bulls said to have been “quietly gauging” trade interest in him around the league, per Fischer on June 15.
“I committed to the Bulls when I signed here,” LaVine said via NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Talk on October 2. “I’ll be committed to the Bulls until I leave. That’s not my decision. I made my decision to be here. … When there’s smoke, there’s fire. Obviously, those rumors aren’t coming from me and my camp.”
LaVine said he believed some rumors and not others, adding he doesn’t worry about it either.
This is the same thing LaVine has said when previously asked about the trade rumors that have been persistent since the trade deadline. At the same time, the Bulls’ front office has held such a high valuation on him that no deal has come to fruition which could be just as telling.
Zach LaVine Could Get Off to Fast Start
Last offseason, LaVine underwent arthroscopic knee surgery that robbed him of his typical training regimen to ramp up for the season. LaVine was left to play himself into shape which included missing four of the Bulls’ first 11 games of the regular season.
LaVine averaged 20.9 points on 52.9% true shooting over his first 16 appearances last season as he shook off the rust.
He averaged 25.9 points on 62.6% true shooting after that through the end of the season.
The high-flying guard ended up making 77 appearances, his most since being traded to the Bulls ahead of the 2017-18 season. Opening the season healthy could help the Bulls on the court or, if nothing else, allay fears about LaVine’s previously balky knee and boost his trade value as the trade deadline approaches.