Since December 20, the Chicago Bulls (18-21)have gone 7-3 while boasting the eleventh-best net rating in that span. Their losses have ranged from letdown to historic but their wins have boasted the same characteristics.
It’s a significant development for a roster that has been under fire since sliding in the latter stages of last season.
But Zach LaVine isn’t concerning himself with any of the chatter from the outside.
The Bulls have been mentioned as a team that could be primed for a mid-season move since the summer after their quiet offseason left them with some obvious roster flaws. Despite those flaws showing up early and often, the Bulls have treaded water well enough to be in striking distance of the playoffs and evoke a vote of confidence from the face of the franchise.
Zach LaVine ‘Not Worried’ About Bulls’ Roster
“At our best, we showed what we can be last year [at this time],’’ LaVine said per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “We were the No. 1 team in the East. At our best, we’re one of the best teams in the league…I’m not worried about our roster.’’
But their peak came before a 138-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors on January 14 last season.
In addition to losing starting point guard Lonzo Ball to a knee injury that has kept him sidelined to this point, LaVine also suffered a knee injury in that game that sapped his explosiveness. Before that, he averaged 25.6 points on 61.3% true shooting. He averaged 23.7 PPG on 59.5% true shooting after that game.
This season, he began slow coming off an arthroscopic procedure on the knee that prevented him from his usual offseason routine and held him out of the Bulls’ first two games and one game in each of their first two sets of back-to-backs.
LaVine is coming off a 41-point showing in the Bulls’ 126-112 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in which he became just the second player to hit at least 80% of his 10-plus threes in a game.
The only other player to do that in NBA history is Warriors star, Stephen Curry.
Chicago signed the two-time All-Star to a five-year, $215 million max contract this past summer and he expressed excitement about being able to offer input on the direction of the team going forward. But LaVine is not looking to be the one who has to make the tough decisions when it comes to the February 9 trade deadline.
“That’s for [the front office] to decide,” he said.
What Will The Bulls Decide?
During the Bulls’ slump that saw them drop eight of 11 contests including four in a row at one point from the end of November to mid-December, there were calls for vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to face the public.
He did not.
Instead, he remained quiet and as patient as ever as his team worked its way through a litany of issues both with other teams on the floor and each other in the locker room.
They aren’t quite on the other side just yet – they are still 3.5 games back of the six-seed they occupied last season and are holding onto their current slot in the Play-In Tournament by a thread with Atlanta just as capable of going on a run. It’s going to take consistent effort to maintain their current solid stretch.