Bulls introduce rookie Dalen Terry, but Zach LaVine talk steals show
The Bulls and coach Billy Donovan consider Terry another piece in a growing competitive group, But with free agency set to begin Thursday, LaVine continues to be at the center of their plans.
The purpose of the Bulls’ news conference Monday at the Advocate Center was to introduce Dalen Terry, whom they selected No. 18 overall Thursday in the NBA Draft.
It didn’t take long, however, for free-agency talk about guard Zach LaVine to hijack the afternoon.
And that talk isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Yes, there was a lot to like about Terry and his excitable personality. But this remains the ‘‘Summer of Zach’’ and the decision LaVine can make about his future as early as 5 p.m. Thursday, when teams and players can begin negotiating free-agent deals.
Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has been consistent in his stance that the Bulls want to keep LaVine in Chicago, even if it takes the five-year, nearly $215 million max contract to do so.
He tripled down on that stance Monday.
‘‘We’ve been very open that we hope Zach is here for a long time, and nothing has changed,’’ Karnisovas said.
When pressed about the Bulls’ confidence in LaVine’s left knee holding up after he had surgery on it a few months back, Karnisovas responded: ‘‘I think he’s going to be healthy, and he’s now progressing great. Like I said, looking forward to free agency.
‘‘I’m confident in approaching this free agency, the next couple of days sitting down with our group, looking at a lot of things. And June 30, 6 p.m. Eastern time, that’s when the conversations start.’’
They already have started among LaVine’s teammates, who remained confident he would re-sign with the Bulls, a source said.
That doesn’t mean LaVine won’t go through the process of listening to other teams. But in recent conversations with teammates, LaVine has insisted the Bulls are his first choice.
If LaVine doesn’t have a change of heart, that would mean a core trio of LaVine, center Nikola Vucevic and forward DeMar DeRozan for at least the start of the 2022-23 season.
‘‘The way you can build your roster is three ways, right? Through your trades, through free agency and the draft,’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘We’re tapping into all three of them.
‘‘Continuity? Yes, because this group has been here only since October, so we’re still trying to get used to how to play with each other. The start of the season last year was really, really positive and exactly how we want to play.’’
That’s where Terry comes in. The defensive-minded wing isn’t necessarily a game-changer for the starting unit as much as he is another piece to building a collection of competitive players.
‘‘The one thing that I respect that [Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] and his staff are doing is, it’s like the same situation with [second-round pick] Ayo [Dosunmu] last year with the competitive mentality,’’ coach Billy Donovan said when discussing Terry’s role. ‘‘And I think the one thing that stood out with people you speak to [about Terry] is just his energy, his enthusiasm, his eagerness to get better and grow.
‘‘It’s hard to say right now what his role would be because we’ve got to get the whole group together. But we’ve spoken a couple of times — draft night and over the weekend — [and] I think he’s very eager to learn and to improve. And as long as he keeps that mentality, then his talent level will continue to get better.
‘‘What we want to continue to do here is bring in guys like that, [who] have that same spirit and mentality. [Terry] has a great deal of that.’’