Despite months of rumors and reports suggesting otherwise, Zach LaVine revealed that he never even met with another team during the free-agent process.
The words came right from the belly of the beast on Monday afternoon, as LaVine spoke with reporters for his first time since signing a five-year, $215 million max deal with the Chicago Bulls.
“I went into the offseason with an open mind. I laid out my goals, just like I always had. Once I was able to meet with Marc and AK, and they came to me with everything I wanted, there was no other reason for me to go outside and look at any other teams,” LaVine said. “I think – for me – that would have been disrespectful on my end. They gave me everything I asked for. And everything I looked at on the table had Chicago as the pros.
I did my due diligence on my own time, as well. Looked at things and made a decision for me and my family. My heart was in Chicago.”
Considering the Bulls always had the power to slap the biggest paycheck on the desk, much of the LaVine discourse this season felt like a leverage play to ensure they do so. And I think it’s safe to say that’s precisely what it was.
Plus, as much weight as money can hold, we’ve always known LaVine’s ties to this city and franchise have grown strong. Chicago is where he worked through a nasty ACL injury. Chicago is where he became one of the league’s top scorers. Chicago is where he earned two All-Star nods. Chicago is where he cracked the playoffs for the first time.
LaVine has truly been one of the only constants for an organization that has experienced so much change. Continuing that journey is obviously important to him, as is the respect he has from the people sitting upstairs.
“Chicago is my home,” LaVine said. “Being able to come back as a cornerstone piece and allowing them to get some of my insight and input – pretty much constructing the roster – to help me and to help us win was really big for me.”
While it was unclear whether this front office would initially envision LaVine as a fundamental piece of a winning team, they made their thoughts on the All-Star more than clear last summer. Not only did they aggressively reconstruct the roster to create a winning product around the emerging star, but they reportedly made him a part of that recruiting process. I have no doubt this stood out to the 27-year-old as he thought about his future.
Putting LaVine’s perceived loyalty aside, the arguably more important point here is the Bulls did what they had to do to keep a star in town. Unlike how we saw the organization panic with Jimmy Butler (and, yes, I know the situations aren’t perfectly parallel), they paid up to keep a highly-coveted asset in a Bulls jersey. Even in the thick of a head-scratching free-agent period where ownership seems destined to avoid the luxury tax … that’s a positive sign.
For more on LaVine’s press conference, check out the video below: