The door was technically open for the Chicago Bulls to extend Zach LaVine this offseason. While the first-time All-Star was never going to take the basic extension built off his current $19.5 million contract (one that vastly underpays him for his production), there was a world where the front office could have restructured his deal to create the kind of max-contract he expects to see in 2022.
However, going about this process would have further limited the team’s flexibility this summer. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley would have had to open up cap space and use roughly $14 million to rework the upcoming final season of LaVine’s deal. And, even then, this re-envisioned contract would not reach the possible peak LaVine can make as an unrestricted free agent in a renewed deal next season (Michael: And, surely, it would have allowed for fewer offseason additions, which is counterproductive to keeping him here in the first place).
With all of that being the case, the Chicago Bulls decided to focus their efforts on bolstering the roster around their franchise centerpiece. The organization added DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball via sign-and-trade and added a key defensive hound in Alex Caruso (among several other moves). There is no question that the moves have significantly improved this roster’s talent level, and the decision to go this route seems to be one LaVine understands.
LaVine spoke with Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports about his recent partnership with Mountain Dew and NBA 2K22, and Goodwill made sure to sneak in an important question during their discussion:
VG: “The Bulls could have extended you this offseason. They chose to replenish the roster. Does that place a chip on your shoulder or do you look at that as a function of business? How did you take all of that?”
ZL: “It’s business. At the end of the day, I have my own things I want to go after. I have a lot different motivations in my life that I try to use on the court. But I’m focused on, obviously, this next upcoming year and seeing how good I can help this team win. And, obviously, keep developing myself to get better as a player.”
A diplomatic answer, sure, but a positive one for Bulls fans, nonetheless.
LaVine’s response only continues to support the narrative that he has comfortably backed the transactions made thus far (and how could he not, considering this will be the most talented team for which he’s ever played?). Not only did the man recognize in several conversations this summer that what the Bulls decide to do in free agency could impact extension talks, but reports have also suggested that he was plenty active in the decision-making process, itself.
It also does not hurt the cause that LaVine sounded nothing short of excited about this roster’s potential in the rest of his talk with Goodwill. When asked specifically about his potential fit alongside another ball-dominant scorer like DeRozan, LaVine sounded confident and encouraged by the future pairing.
When you have one goal in mind and you have two very good players, I don’t think it’s going to be hard at all. He has been with great teams. He’s a great player, and I think that’s going to elevate everyone else around him. I’m more than excited to get him, [and] Zo – very high IQ player. I’m looking forward to seeing how good the team can be because, at the end of the day, everybody is 0-0 in the beginning. We have to start at the ground and try to build it up.
Mark that down as two people who are looking forward to seeing how good this team can be!
DeRozan, Ball, LaVine, Vucevic, and more have already been spotted at the Advocate Center over the past week. With training camp still a couple of weeks away, I think it’s just another indication that LaVine and Co. are excited about what is brewing in Chicago. The potential for this roster to play significantly more competitive basketball is there, and the prospect of that has seemed to keep LaVine bought into the current direction of this franchise.