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NBA

Chicago Bulls’ Zach Lavine wants to explore market as a free agent

With his contract coming to an end, the question now becomes whether or not the Bulls can hold onto their star or will he be with another team next year?

Paul Rudder
Update:
Chicago Bulls’ Zach Lavine wants to explore market as a free agent
Chicago TribuneGetty

The Bulls’ star has been tight lipped on exactly what he intends to do with free agency looming, leaving fans and the franchise alike to wonder where this all ends.

Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine wants to explore free agency.

Considering his comments on Friday, it’s now clear that while the Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine has not ruled out resigning with the franchise, he’s most definitely not opposed to exploring his options in the market as an unrestricted free agent. Indeed, LaVine referred to a “big decision” that must now be made by him and his family. The two time All-Star went on to insist that though he has enjoyed his time in Chicago - five seasons to be precise - he’s still keeping his options open.

“I plan to enjoy free agency. We’re going to have to experience A through Z without making any fast decisions. I think that’s something me and [agent Rich Paul] are going to go through and experience,” said LaVine when referring to the idea that he intends to meet with other teams. Where does that leave the Bulls then? While the star guard was again coy, it’s clear his decision is one that won’t be taken lightly. “You guys have been a really, really soft spot in my heart,” he said. “I have to do this as a business decision, as a man, to not just be viewed one way and be like I’m automatically coming back or I’m automatically leaving.”

Was the Bulls’ last season a factor for Zach LaVine?

The best way to describe the Bulls most recent campaign would be with the term ‘mixed bag.’ On the one side Chicago started out quite well as they posted a 46-36 record on their way to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2017. Unfortunately, that’s where things took a wrong turn. Decimated by injuries, the Bulls had to do without guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, along with forward Patrick Williams and then finally LaVine himself who entered the league’s health and safety protocols due to covid-19. In the end Chicago struggled and were eventually eliminated by the defending NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 in the first round.

LaVine for his part averaged 24.4 ppg across the season and was included in the All’Star team for a second consecutive year, as he made his playoff debut. With that said, it was not a great season. From an early thumb injury to a sore left knee he was in and out of the line up. Then there was platelet-rich plasma therapy, a cortisone injection and fluid drained from said knee, which is to say it was definitely a year of ups and downs. Where covid-19 is concerned, he actually tested negative on Friday having “felt terrible” for the first two days. He said he tested negative Friday after he “felt terrible” the first two days. This is all to say that perhaps with all of the twists and turns and then finally the disappointment of an early exit, the Bulls star simply wants a fresh start with a new challenge.

What do the Bulls have to say about LaVine?

As he comes to the end of his four year $78 million contract, there is one thing that is clear and that’s Chicago’s desire to keep him. “The thing is that we have a relationship with him. He knows exactly what to expect here,” executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said. “We have a really good relationship with him. The last two years have been the best two years of his career, so we’ll see what happens.” Where LaVine’s problematic knee is concerned, Karnisovas made it clear that it wouldn’t be a factor in negotiations. At present it would appear that the Bulls can only offer a max contract in the realm of $210 million over five years as opposed to a super-max deal worth about $245 million, which seems to be something that LaVine is not interested in. “I think it’s important to me you get paid what you’re valued at,” LaVine said. “I see myself as a top guy in this league. I think I’ve proven that over the last four years.”

Where do LaVine and the Bulls go from here?

While it’s still not clear as to what LaVine will do, one interesting point was his acknowledgement of the Bulls as a potentially elite team with the likes of Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, Ball and Caruso as well as drafting Ayo Dosunmu and of course the hiring coach Billy Donovan. Truthfully, one has to suspect that were it not for injuries and covid-19 the Bulls would have been a very different prospect this last season. The question now is ‘will that potential for the future be enough to convince LaVine to stay?’

“I don’t think Rome was built in a year,” LaVine said. “I don’t think you can be a championship-caliber team right off the bat. Maybe some teams are. But it’s tough. It’s the first time a lot of us made the playoffs. I think it was a really good experience. And not all of us got to really play together due to circumstances of COVID and injury. I definitely think this is a good team and has the potential to be a championship-caliber team.”

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