Bulls’ Zach LaVine Name-Dropped in ‘Preliminary’ Trade Talks

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 and head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The relationship between the Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine remains under the microscope.

“The LaVine trade chatter isn’t going away,” NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson wrote on July 7. “LaVine has landed in preliminary conversations with both the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers.”

The Bulls star is said to have been irked by coming up in trade rumors despite showing his loyalty to the organization, especially last offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

He signed his five-year, $215 million max contract without taking any other visits. Johnson previously reported that there was indeed some doubt about LaVine’s future in Chicago after they held talks with the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks at the trade deadline but neither was said to have gotten very far.

The relationship between LaVine and head coach Billy Donovan remains suboptimal.

“While LaVine respects Donovan, he has had multiple meetings over the past two seasons about his role and usage,” Johnson adds. “Sources said that the franchise has fluctuated in its belief in LaVine’s consistency as a lead option.”

LaVine’s showing against the Miami Heat in the Play-In Tournament hurt that belief.

LaVine, 28, averaged 24.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while shooting 37.5% from three-point range this past season. But he began the campaign slow as he worked his way back into shape following an arthroscopic knee procedure during the offseason.

Donovan and LaVine’s relationship also came into question earlier this season when the former benched the latter in the fourth quarter during a loss to the Orlando Magic.

It certainly did not sit well with LaVine at the time.

“That’s Billy’s decision. He’s gotta lay with it,” LaVine said of the benching. “Do I agree with it? No. I think I can still go out there and be me even if I miss some shots. But that’s his decision, and he has to stand on it.”

Donovan stood by his decision to hold LaVine – who was 1-for-14 (0-for-5 3P) with four points in the game – accountable. And, despite LaVine asserting that they have a good relationship, there were whispers in league circles that the incident would not be so easily forgotten by the two-time All-Star, LaVine.

Zach LaVine Reunites with DeMar DeRozan at Summer League in Las Vegas

One month after the benching, reports emerged that there had been some animated exchanges in the locker room aimed at LaVine. It was also noted that LaVine and teammate DeMar DeRozan had several face-to-face meetings to iron out their on-court differences.

The two denied any underlying issue beyond the struggles and their relationship off the court has never come into question.

They put that on display on Day 1 of Summer League in Las Vegas action.

“Coming to play with it with a guy like Zach…it’s been great,” DeRozan said on ‘Podcast P with Paul George’ in May. “That gives me a different type of drive and a motivation just to give everything that I’ve learned since I’ve been in the league to give it off to him so he could take it to another level.”

DeRozan is heading into the final year of a three-year, $81.9 million contract but he is said to carry favor within the organization not only for his play but also because of his work with the younger players.

Dalen Terry Sounds Off on Training With DeMar DeRozan

Last summer, DeRozan took Patrick Williams under his wing. DeRozan said it was “mandatory” that his younger teammates joined him this offseason, which meant second-year wing Dalen Terry, the No. 18 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

“It was a hell of an experience, obviously, just seeing what he puts himself through every summer,” Terry told Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic from Las Vegas after the Bulls’ Summer League opener – an 83-74 Bulls win – on July 7. “After I left him I tried to keep going on my own, and I think I did a pretty good job with it.”

Still, the experience was not easy to put into words, though it was made into a video package by the Bulls’ social media team.

Terry was the first top-20 pick since Zhaire Smith of the 76ers in 2018 to see fewer than 215 minutes, per Stathead. He spoke honestly about the adjustment from playing a lot in college to rarely as a rookie, and the Bulls could undoubtedly benefit from that too.