Here's What Zach LaVine and Arturas Karnisovas Said About LaVine's Free Agency

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Here’s What Zach LaVine and Arturas Karnisovas Said About LaVine’s Free Agency

Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine said some words on Friday afternoon. And fans proceeded to freak out. It’s only natural.

Headed toward unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, LaVine was bombarded with questions about his expectations for the summer. While his responses were somewhat similar to those he gave throughout the regular season, there is no question he amped up the idea of a less-than-certain future.

“Obviously, I understand the relationship I have with Arturas and everybody here. I’ve been here the last five years, and I’ve really enjoyed my time,” LaVine told reporters. “I think this city, and I hope everybody, understands how much I care about the Bulls and what I’ve done for the city and things like that. I’m going into everything open-minded but understanding that my time here has been great.”

If we’re being honest, that isn’t what a fan wants to hear from their star player. The past tense usage and blatant acknowledgment of being “open-minded” will understandably have folks hovering over the panic button. However, at the same time, what did we exactly expect LaVine to say?

As a new Klutch client, I have little doubt LaVine has been told to grasp his leverage at all costs. We’re talking about a player who is about to be one of the hottest tickets on the free-agent market, and the last thing he wants to do is make the Chicago Bulls – the organization that can offer him the most money – feel too comfortable. He wanted to leave Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley with no choice but to slap down the best possible contract from the jump, and playing this kind of game is exactly the way to do just that.

“I think they’re going to put a lot of things on the table, and that’s not really going to be for me to go in and argue with them for,” LaVine said when asked about contract logistics. “I think that’s what Rich and AK get to discuss. Obviously, I’ve proven myself in this league and who I am as a player. I think that’s what I have him on my behalf for, to represent me and have those talks. Obviously, this is a business and everybody is going to try to take advantage of everybody at a certain point going into negotiations, but I’m glad I get to view it from afar.”

We have to remember LaVine isn’t the one who will be sitting at the negotiation table, which explains why he wants to leave the door this open when answering questions on the issue. The goal is to give his agent Rich Paul all the cards, and I think that’s primarily what this afternoon was about.

“I have to do this as a business decision … to not just be viewed one way as I’m automatically coming back or I’m automatically leaving, things like that. It’s unrestricted free agency. I think for my family, for me, I have to go and look at this as a decision where I need to be open-eyed.”

Do I think LaVine stays in Chicago? As long as the Bulls open up their wallet (which has been up for a fair debate in the past), I think the answer is easy yes. I also think he wants to stay in Chicago and continue to build a winning roster. After all, he said the additions to this team over the past year and a half were “huge” toward developing his confidence in the franchise’s ability to keep trending in the right direction.

Before LaVine spoke, it was Arturas Karnisovas’ turn to do his job at the podium. The executive vice president of basketball operations was clear about the fact that he wants LaVine back in a Bulls jersey next season. He also insisted that LaVine’s current knee injury will have “no” impact on how they approach his unrestricted free agency.

“We definitely appreciate him being in and battling in every game,” Karnisovas said. “He’s another one that is going to see doctors and going to get healthy. I enjoyed the second year with Zach. Two years in a row being an All-Star and just getting to know him and working with him. He has a great relationship with Billy. He has a great support system here with our coaching staff and front office. I hope he’s here for a long time.”

At the end of the day, I see this as two people on different sides of a big wooden desk. LaVine knows what he has to do to ensure the Chicago Bulls don’t mess around when negotiations start, and Karnisovas knows what he has to do to reassure LaVine that the organization has his best interest at heart. So while today’s quotes may not have been the most comforting, they don’t necessarily change how I feel about what comes next.

I’ll continue to sweat a little until the pen is put to paper, but we simply can’t forget that it makes the most sense for both parties to continue this marriage. The Bulls do not want to lose an All-Star player who is just entering his prime, especially after sending off so many assets to build up a winning team around him. Likewise, LaVine probably doesn’t want to leave millions of dollars on the table to sign with a smaller market or cap space team, especially since most of those cap space teams are going through their own rebuilds.

A long-term future in Chicago for LaVine is the most obvious solution … but, hey, sometimes the NBA isn’t so obvious.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.