The text messages started in 2017.
They were two young NBA players on the verge of coming into their own derailed by torn anterior cruciate ligaments five days apart. They were facing the long journey back.
“Jabari Parker and I were both injured,’’ Zach LaVine said Wednesday. “We both got injured at the same time.
‘‘I had my ACL, he had his second one, and we were already texting each other from there. And then a little bit throughout [last] season, seeing when he was coming back.
“I didn’t really talk to him a lot when he was playing. Gave him his space. Then after [last] season, I started texting him again, like, ‘What’s up, man?’ ’’
So when did LaVine start using his phone to recruit Parker to join his hometown Bulls?
“Um, right after the season,’’ he said with a laugh.
It wasn’t exactly the most convincing answer, but LaVine was sticking to it.
“I know what I’m doing,’’ LaVine said of the recruitment. “But I think he knew what he wanted and so did the city, so I think we were good.’’
The bigger question is just how good?
LaVine and Parker have more than bum knees in common.
They’re gifted offensive players who are defensively challenged, two up-and-coming alpha dogs making $20 million a year, trying to build a friendship off the court and chemistry on it.
“I talk to him every morning, and we’ll get this friendship going,’’ LaVine said. “He’s a real cool dude, real laid-back, an old soul. I love old-school cars, and he’s got, like, six of them. I’ve been trying to drive one. He’s real chill, a relaxed dude. He listens to nothing but old-school hip-hop music, and I’m the same way. So we already have some connections.’’
Now it’s a matter of becoming even more connected. That’s what this training camp and preseason are all about. The two can’t just merely coexist if Year 2 of the rebuild is going to move forward successfully.
“Yeah, for sure,’’ LaVine said of the importance of building a good relationship. “You can be up-front with each other. If he needs something, you’re not afraid to ask it. You can’t get too upset with something if you say something on the court. You have to be able to take accountability, so once that friendship grows, you’re OK.’’
The Bulls lack a true go-to superstar. The offensive pecking order, especially late in games, will often come down to who’s hot rather than bank accounts or championship rings.
They need to make sure everyone gets on the same page so there will be a lot less finger-pointing later on.
“We have to understand that,’’ LaVine said. “We can see it on the court. We’re all good enough basketball players to understand, ‘OK, this dude has it going.’ We’ve got to be unselfish enough to know it’s his day. You gotta feed him; you gotta play through him.
“If it’s Lauri [Markkanen’s] day, you gotta feed him. If it’s my day . . . obviously [last year] against the Timberwolves, I made it vocal early, ‘Look, I’m going today.’ That’s the main thing. I think we’re all cool enough with each other where we can all talk to each other, and be like, ‘Look, give it to me here, call a play here.’ We’ll all work together fine.’’