Bulls guard Zach LaVine says contract talk is for a later date
LaVine is going to do his best to focus on playoff talk, not contract talk, with free agency looming next offseason.
The time for contract talk will come.
It certainly won’t be in a public forum, and it definitely wasn’t going to play out Monday on media day with the start of training camp less than 24 hours away.
For now, the only talk Zach LaVine was interested in had to do with “hard hats’’ and getting to know his new teammates.
“My plan [Tuesday] is to get ready for training camp, get ready for the season and try to help these guys win just like everybody else,’’ LaVine said when asked about his pending free agency after the season. “I’m not worried about my contract right now. That will be at a point and time in the future, and my agent and I will sit down and discuss it, go from there. But right now it’s about the Bulls and getting better tomorrow.’’
That was a much different-sounding LaVine than the one from the end of a disappointing 2020-21 season. LaVine’s contract “plan’’ then involved getting “what I deserve, and whatever that is, I’ll have it coming to me.’’
Why the softer stance now?
He can thank his front office for that.
It provided him with better pieces this offseason and kept him in the loop, listened to his opinion, then reiterated how it felt about him when it came to the team’s long-term plans.
“The one thing we know is that we’re committed to Zach,’’ Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said. “We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think the trade-deadline and free-agency moves kind of proved that.’’
It proved something.
Karnisovas traded for Nikola Vucevic at the deadline last season, then added Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan this offseason.
That’s two All-Stars, an elite ballhandler/playmaker in Ball and a guard in Caruso who thrives on doing the dirty work that LaVine has often eschewed.
But those additions have brought expectations.
Bowing out when the postseason arrives, like the Bulls have done for four straight seasons, isn’t really an option, especially if they are invested in LaVine as a max player — a scenario whereby they might have to pay him $201.3 million over the next five years.
LaVine, who has never reached the playoffs, is well aware of that, but also aware that his skills come with a hefty price tag. If he focuses on winning basketball games rather than winning the PR battle about his contract, someone will pay him.
Although he did like hearing that the organization was committed to him.
“It means a lot hearing that from them,’’ LaVine said. “I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy. I’m excited with all the moves that were made and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started because we all have a lot to prove.
“This is the most excited I’ve been, especially with the talent of the team that we have here and the support [the front office has] given me. I’m extremely happy about that, and I’m ready to hit the ground running and go out there and just get it going. There’s an excitement around the city, but there’s a bigger excitement around the team, as well, because we know we can do something.’’