Does Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine feel as though he is being put in the best positions to succeed? It is a simple question that only LaVine can and did (sort of) answer in a recent Q&A with NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson.
“I go out there and play the role that’s given,” LaVine told Johnson ahead of the Bulls’ tilt against the fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. “There are certain things in the role that you’re given and the things that you’re asked to do that you have to go do for your team. And I do them to the best of my ability.”
Confronted with the fact that he delivered a non-answer, LaVine remained steadfast.
“That’s the answer I’m giving,” he said. “But look, there are plenty of opportunities for me to try to do more. When those present themselves, I try to do that as well.”
There was plenty of speculation in training camp as the Bulls experimented with a tweaked offensive scheme predicated on ball movement to create “chaos” for the opposing defense. It would mean a lot more catch-and-shoot opportunities.
That was when there was a locker room exchange that turned on LaVine.
This season has been littered with reasons for frustration in the locker room and among the fan base. Fancying themselves as a playoff contender and threat in the Eastern Conference, they are three games below .500 and hanging precariously close to the 11-seed.
That would mean not even making the Play-In Tournament which, as it stands, already has to be the launching point for executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ stated expectation of making it to the second round of the postseason after snapping a five-year drought last year.
Despite the ups and downs, LaVine is not looking to split from his teammates with so little time together, relatively speaking.
“We’ve been together for what, a year-and-a-half now,” he asked rhetorically. “We see what we did last year and where we’re at this year. I think everything is up for evaluation. But I think you can say that about a lot of teams, a lot of “Big Threes,” a lot of players. I know this: I love my teammates. I love [Nikola Vucevic]. I love DeMar [DeRozan]. Relationship-wise, we’re all perfectly fine. We just have to win games to be looked at as that (a championship contender).”
He shared similar sentiments about Bulls head coach Billy Donovan with whom he had a very public disagreement after being benched down the stretch in a 108-107 loss to the Orlando Magic on November 18, a game in which LaVine struggled.
LaVine noted that they have long since moved past that particular incident.
Does Zach LaVine Want to be Traded?
Having an affinity for his teammates is one thing, but there have also been questions about LaVine’s level of satisfaction with the organization and the front office’s vision of winning. He found himself being bandied about in trade rumors at this season’s trade deadline which could have gone awkwardly amid all of the other turmoil.
“I signed here to be here for five years,” he pointed out. “It’s not up to me if I’m here or not. That’s for people above my role. But the franchise committed to me the same way I committed to them. As long as I have a Bulls jersey on, I support Chicago. I always have ever since I got traded here. It’s a franchise that wanted me and has helped my career out. You understand the position you’re in—the first year of a contract that people put a label on for some reason. I’m the same player since I came here. That contract didn’t change me.”
He said the same thing after initially signing the deal shrugging off questions about how he would handle the new level of criticism. LaVine also previously noted to Johnson that he did not have any concerns amid the rumors since he never received any calls.
No one knows what the future holds. But the two-time All-Star is still saying all the right things including keeping the focus of the season on him and his fellow stars.
“Your best players have to lead the way and your supporting cast has to help as well. We have to be more consistent.”