Bulls guard Zach LaVine says message has been sent by front office
The Bulls acquired five players at the trade deadline, including All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Those moves give LaVine a reason to stay with the team and make Chicago an attractive destination for other stars.
The way guard Zach LaVine sees it, notice was served — to the Bulls who remain and to the entire league, for that matter — after the team’s trade-deadline purge.
“[This front office] is not here to mess around,’’ LaVine said Friday. “They’re ready to win, and they’ll do anything it takes to make this organization better and get back to where this franchise should be at. That’s what I got from it.’’
“I’ve always wanted to play with a dominant big, and you know we’re obviously going to have to figure out our chemistry,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘But a guy like Vucevic is so talented offensively, he’s dominant in the post, in the midrange, he facilitates, he can pop for the three, so I think a combination of us in pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops, is going to be deadly. I know him pretty well. [I’ve had] his number for a while, and we became real close friends, so I’m very happy he was able to find his way over here, and it’s a blessing.’’
The Bulls also acquired Al-Farouq Aminu, Troy Brown Jr., Daniel Theis and Javonte Green. Only Theis, the hard-nosed big man acquired from the Celtics, didn’t make it to Chicago, and he’ll miss the game Saturday in San Antonio. Coach Billy Donovan said he’s wrapping up some family issues.
Theis will meet up with his new team in San Francisco in time to take on the Warriors.
The new players needed to get their physicals and the Bulls had to catch a flight to Texas, so the first time Donovan will have a chance to integrate the newest pieces into the puzzle will be at the shootaround Saturday morning.
After that, the schedule isn’t particularly conducive for a team looking for practice time with only 29 games left. There’s the real test for Donovan.
“That’s going to be the challenge,’’ Donovan said. “You have a lot of new players coming in here right now. We’re all going to have to kind of learn our way. You want to make sure you can do it maybe sooner than later.
“We have to try to work through some things. You obviously try to probably shrink a lot of things playbook-wise, try to create some clarity defensively for those guys. There will be some things they have to learn as well and will have to learn playing with new players. All those guys were probably in some kind of system or playing with very familiar faces, and that all of a sudden has changed, not only for them but for the guys who are currently here. We have a lot to work through.’’
LaVine and Vucevic will be counted on to figure it out the quickest. That’s no mystery.
On paper, LaVine and Vucevic should be a matchup nightmare. On paper, however, the Bulls shouldn’t be losing to the Cavaliers or blowing 24-point leads against the Spurs.
LaVine believes they’ll click right away, and now he knows that the front office realized he needed help to reach his postseason goals.
“Yeah, we got another big-time player here,’’ LaVine said. “For me personally, that’s something that’s really big and speaks volumes to me and not just about how they see me, but how they see the organization and what they’re trying to do moving forward.
“That’s big because I want to win. That’s all I’ve been talking about the last couple of years. And I think this puts us on the right [track] of being able to put some wins on the board.’’
On Friday afternoon, the Bulls were 10th in the Eastern Conference, holding on to a play-in spot for the postseason. The good news was that only the three top spots held by the 76ers, Bucks and Nets appeared out of reach.
The bad news for the Bulls is that the schedule gets brutal. The Hawks, Celtics and Heat also improved at the deadline. But at least they can count on Vucevic, who not only is experienced but versatile.
Those facets should make it easier for him to get acclimated.
“He can do a lot of different things,’’ Donovan said. “The one thing that has been really encouraging in the conversations I’ve had with Vucevic is that he’s a big believer and big proponent of ball movement and player movement.
‘‘He feels that everybody should be involved in the game, everybody should be moving and cutting and playing off each other and him facilitating some of that stuff. He likes that. And I think that’s the way he feels the game should be played, and I’m in alignment with him on that.’’
And LaVine now feels that there are long-term reasons to stay with the Bulls. The organization will be looking to extend his contract this offseason, so he was asked if the Vucevic deal is an incentive to stay.
“I want to stay in Chicago,’’ LaVine said with a laugh. “I haven’t had anything of wanting to leave. When that time comes, obviously I’ll try to do the best I can to stay here. Adding someone like this and being more attractive in the free-agent market to bring more players here is always a bonus for any player.’’