Bulls Star Zach LaVine Has Told Teammates of His ‘1st Choice’ in Free Agency: Report

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Unrestricted free agent Zach LaVine can begin talks with the Bulls at 5 p.m. Central time on June 30.

The Chicago Bulls have been all about “continuity” this offseason. Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has repeatedly said that he wants to see last season’s core together and healthy, a message echoed by players. As much as the Bulls would love to run it back, that would be possible only if they can re-sign unrestricted free agent Zach LaVine this summer.

That might be close to becoming a reality, according to a June 27 story by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley said the Bulls were LaVine’s “first choice.”

LaVine’s decision has been hypothesized about ever since the Bulls were bounced from the postseason. But those close to LaVine might not be sweating this process as much as those on the outside may be.

Those In the Know

The topic of LaVine’s future loomed large at the June 27 introductory press conference for Dalen Terry, whom the Bulls drafted with the 18th overall pick on June 23.

Speaking about LaVine, Karnisovas said the “conversations start” on “June 30, 6 p.m Eastern time,” which is when teams can begin negotiating with free agents. But, according to Cowley, those conversations “already have” happened with teammates.

“That doesn’t mean LaVine won’t go through the process of listening to other teams and being wined and dined, but in conversations with teammates recently Lavine has insisted the Bulls were his first choice.”

Cowley’s report coincided with a report from ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan, who said that the Bulls already told LaVine they planned to offer the max and that he plans to accept it when free agency begins on June 30.

The Sky Is Not Falling

At one point this offseason, there was a feeling in some corners that LaVine’s exit was imminent. LaVar Ball, father of Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, told Kaplan on May 18 that LaVine was gone, an assertion Kaplan also made on May 20 on his show, “Unfiltered.”

A few days later, LaVine told TMZ that he had “always been big a fan” of the Los Angeles Lakers, a comment taken by some to mean that LA would be his destination.

NBA correspondent Marc Stein confirmed on May 20 the belief in some league circles that Lavine could be had on the open market.

Then there was a report from The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor during a June 9 appearance on the “The Bill Simmons Podcast” that the Bulls’ initial offer to LaVine was less than a max deal and that they were haggling over guaranteeing the fifth and final year of a deal.

But that no longer appears to be a hurdle and some executives around the league told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that they believed LaVine’s agents at Klutch Sports were responsible for all of the smoke. The rumors persisted around the league.

But NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reported on June 27 that they were dying down.

LaVine’s contract would come in at $212 million, per Forbes’ Jason Patt, if that is indeed the deal the two sides agree upon once they can officially do so.

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Injury Statuses Updated

LaVine’s health is right there with Ball’s in terms of significance. Karnisovas updated both players’ statuses on June 27, saying that Ball was “making progress” which is an improvement from the standstill in his rehab process. During his exit interview, the Karnisovas said that he did not anticipate LaVine’s knee injury to linger or impact negotiations.

Karnisovas remained confident about LaVine’s long-term outlook health-wise a while meeting the media with Terry, who had already wowed local media with his energy via Zoom on draft night.

Bulls fans might not relax until the two-time All-Star puts ink to paper. But the chances that LaVine returns appear as high as they have ever been.

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