Presented by National Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Zach LaVine’s future with the Chicago Bulls has been a source of constant speculation, ever since he signed a waiver wire with the Sacramento Kings in 2018 free agency that the Bulls agreed to despite signing a five-year, $215 million contract. in 2022.
So on the one hand, it didn’t change much on Tuesday when The Athletic first reported — and NBC Sports Chicago confirmed — that the trade market would be re-examined for LaVine.
But on the other hand, one important wrinkle did change: For the first time, LaVine could be open to a change of scenery, sources said.
That doesn’t mean LaVine won’t remain a professional and commit to trying to improve the season regardless, for himself and the Bulls. Besides, the team paid a lot of money for him. But LaVine, who has been fiercely loyal to the Bulls and served as the face of the franchise during a difficult rebuilding period, may be open to seeing the situation if it appears.
Several things are important to remember here:
—Just because the players are free to change doesn’t mean the Bulls will make a deal or move him just for the sake of moving him. After all, the management started this season fully committed to getting back into contention with the team.
—The trade market opens wide on December 15, when players who signed contracts during the offseason are eligible to be traded.
—Playing great basketball between now and the Feb. trade deadline. 8 may change the story. A 4-7 start, with LaVine hitting the bottom of his career, is testing everyone’s patience.
— The Bulls held trade talks that centered on LaVine last season. Their asking price was at an all-time high. The unanswered question at this point is: Is this asking going down given the Bulls’ struggles?
LaVine was tied loosely with Damian Lillard and James Harden, two players who moved to the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively. As LaVine himself said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole at the time LaVine was preparing to play golf in the American Century Championship pro-am, he always seems to hear rumors.
“It’s always a rumor,” LaVine told Poole. But I heard this: Where there is smoke, there is fire. Every now and then, you see a lot of smoke.”
Even with the 76ers finally trading Harden to the Clippers, there is a lot of smoke now. The package that Philadelphia received, with capital that includes two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a trade, is the kind of thing that’s being handled to get another star.
And according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, LaVine and Toronto Raptors ace OG Anunoby are two of the “names to watch”.
It’s all speculation at this point. The Bulls play their 12th straight game on Wednesday night at home. And many teams are still in the comfortable phase of their season. The time to separate the naysayers from the naysayers is almost over.
And Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out that the 76ers are looking for two-dimensional players and could keep their assets next summer, while also looking to have a high-paying cap space.
As recently as last month in Detroit, LaVine fielded questions in the locker room about the future of the Bulls’ Big Three following a disappointing loss to the Pistons.
“Since Day One, I’ve said it’s time to write a pen. It’s our third year together. We know how the business is,” LaVine said then. “We both love each other. DeMar (DeRozan) is one of my best friends. We talk all the time. But we have to figure out how to do this.
“We have been here for a long time. Shoot, Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) is sold. I’m sold. DeMar has been sold. We understand the business. “
Vice president Artūras Karnišovas re-signed Vucevic, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu last offseason to bolster his base with the additions of Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig. This is the practice of a franchise looking to adapt to the postseason, not a rebuild.
Especially since Karnišovas publicly stated that the team is discussing an extension with DeRozan, who has an expiring contract. Those discussions have not helped yet.
But what if the Bulls’ season goes south? The players have talked about how change is possible.
And NBC Sports Chicago reviewed the speculation surrounding LaVine from July in the segment linked here. Two things haven’t changed: LaVine still remembers Billy Donovan’s high profile on him. And some members of the organization have wavered in their belief that LaVine is irreplaceable as a leading tackle on a team struggling to compete, questions that have only grown following LaVine’s up-and-down performance in the playoffs.
Win the game, shoot well and maybe the issue goes away. But it seems it doesn’t.
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