Insider Details Bulls Star Zach LaVine’s Unresolved Issues: Report

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a break in the action.

This could turn what has been a nice stretch of basketball from the Chicago Bulls (19-21) into the turbulence we saw just a few weeks ago. They have battled their way back from the brink going 8-3 over their last 11 outings to take the nine-seed.

Alas, all is not well in Bulls Nation with reports that some old wounds still have not closed despite everyone vowing to move forward.

The rift between two-time All-Star and face of the franchise Zach LaVine is still at odds with his head coach, Billy Donovan, stemming from the latter’s decision to bench him down the stretch of the Bulls’ 108-107 loss to the Orlando Magic. LaVine laid the burden of the ramifications of that decision at Donovan’s feet.

That seems to be where it continues to be, per a new report.

Zach LaVine Has Not Forgotten

“While the LaVine-Billy Donovan player-coach relationship is still very workable it remains somewhat strained,” reports Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times citing not only the benching but also the Bulls’ late-game reliance on DeMar DeRozan.

The issue with his late-game role has, at least in the interim, subsided with LaVine able to take over in the Bulls’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

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But Cowley says that LaVine has also felt hung out to dry by his head coach.

“The two spoke right after that benching and were at least able to apply enough duct tape to make the bridge functional, but LaVine was obviously unhappy with the way he was called out by teammates,” Cowley says adding, “While the locker room incident had little to do with Donovan, it wasn’t like the coach threw a life preserver to anyone involved.”

Donovan said in the aftermath of that blowup during halftime of the 150-126 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that he wouldn’t put it all on one player.

‘‘I don’t think you can sit there and point at every defensive breakdown and say, ‘Hey, that’s on Zach’ or ‘It’s all DeMar’,” Donovan said per Cowley. “No, it’s all of us. We’re all together. And we as coaches play a part in it, too, constantly trying to create the clarity for him as in, ‘This is what we’re doing, and can we do it at a high enough level?’ ’’

LaVine has downplayed any lingering resentment with his teammates, suggesting that those types of discussions aren’t as uncommon as some might presume. That same courtesy has only been extended so far to his head coach apparently.

Billy Donovan and Zach LaVine’s Common Ground

Cowley goes on to explain that the remaining friction should not impact LaVine or the Bulls on the court in any noticeable way citing the guard’s disapproval of former head coach Jim Boylen. LaVine could often be seen showing visible displeasure with some of the former Bulls skipper’s decisions like taking timeouts in blowout losses.

There were other things – push-ups, a time clock – that contributed to Boylen’s ouster. But not having the team’s best player on your side cannot have helped.

Donovan might not have LaVine’s full support but he does something Boylen lacked. It’s something he and LaVine share in common and a part of the reason Cowley doesn’t foresee this being a disruption along with the former’s ability to compartmentalize.

The Bulls quietly inked Donovan to a “multi-year” extension ahead of this season.

LaVine signed a five-year, $215 million max contract making him the highest-paid player in franchise history.

Does Arturas Karnisovas View Zach LaVine as a Cornerstone?

Despite his contract status, there have been reports that LaVine could be seeking a way out of Chicago should the situation remain as-is. LaVine also said in no uncertain terms that he is “happy” to say he is “confident” in whoever he plays alongside.

But Cowley offers a vital third aspect of the same scenario.

“As well as he’s been playing since mid-December, LaVine’s trade value has not been higher at any point this season than it is now,” Cowley argues. “Does executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas believe enough in LaVine and this team to stay pat or even be a buyer?”

The next few weeks, Cowley writes, could very well determine that.

LaVine has averaged 26.9 points on 67.6% true shooting with 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds while knocking down 50% of his threes since that halftime brouhaha.

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