Zach LaVine wants to win now, and it’s as simple as that.
Front office leader Arturas Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley know that winning is at the top of LaVine’s mind, and it’s why we saw a stick of dynamite taken to the roster this summer. They officially ended the wait-and-see approach with LaVine’s lottery-pick teammates and added more proven talent. Significant dollars were spent on finally signing a long-term playmaker, Lonzo Ball, and a secondary reliable scorer, DeMar DeRozan. Throw in the trade deadline acquisition of All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, and the front office made it clear to LaVine that they had his back.
The moves were an indirect investment in LaVine’s future, one that took the place of reaching an extension this offseason. To get LaVine anywhere near the money he could make as an unrestricted free agent in 2022, the Bulls would have had to use significant salary-cap space to re-negotiate this upcoming final year of his existing contract. If LaVine wanted to win now, this move would have directly worked against that. More money put in his pocket this summer meant less money spent on improving the talent on the floor around him. He understood that, and he practically said as much to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in an exclusive interview.
“At the end of the day it’s a business,” LaVine told Windhorst. “They did what was best for the team and I will continue to go out there and do what’s best for the team as well. This season going forward is going to be extremely crucial not just for me but for everybody. Winning would take care of everything.”
LaVine is right, winning is “crucial” for everyone this season. The front office invested a lot of equity into this retooling, and their reputation is now on the line. Ball and DeRozan are in a similar boat as two players with plenty to prove after choosing to join this team. As for LaVine, he is entering his prime with zero playoff experience under his belt. As a guy (1) looking to get paid and (2) playing for the most talented roster of his career, it’s time to take the next step. In other words, I don’t think LaVine is alluding to anything specific by pointing out the weight this season holds. He is merely sharing the fact.
The facts also state that he can lock in the most possible money next offseason, and the Bulls are the ones who can offer him that money. So while Windhorst does share that Bulls and LaVine “did have extension discussions before free agency,” it’s not particularly surprising that he goes on to write “they did not find common ground.” LaVine likely wanted to be taken care of, but he also wanted to win. Accomplishing both was unlikely, so the organization decided to start with the latter.
“It showed they’re all in to win and we’re transforming the team to be competitive,” LaVine told Windhorst. “We have a whole new team … we’re going to hit the ground running. I was very happy with the offseason.”
LaVine’s happiness seems to be up for plenty of debate among fans and talking heads, but that comment comes from the belly of the beast. Of course, it also is not the first time he has expressed excitement and understanding about the direction the franchise went this offseason. We also can’t forget the reports that he was involved in the recruiting process.
At the end of the day, no one is denying that LaVine can leave the Chicago Bulls after this season, but there is not much out there to suggest he will. Whether it be the moves made over the past few months or the comments made to Windhorst, all the right things are being said and done off the court. Next up: Winning.
Read the full interview with LaVine below:
Zach LaVine was excited by Bulls off-season moves but says winning this year is crucial in determining his & team’s future: https://t.co/obcrKatGZ0
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 23, 2021
For more on Zach LaVine …
As more and more people stir up speculation about Zach LaVine leaving the Chicago Bulls, I’ll be patiently waiting with a bucket of cold water. https://t.co/b55YK4vTJI
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) September 18, 2021