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Bulls guard Zach LaVine adds recruiter to his résumé

Sources indicated that LaVine played a significant role in talking to the Bulls’ recent additions, putting his ego aside for the betterment of the organization. And he did it from Tokyo while with Team USA in the Olympics.

Zach LaVine apparently helped the Bulls with recruiting free agents.
Zach LaVine apparently helped the Bulls with recruiting free agents.
AP

I

t seems that Bulls guard Zach LaVine’s shooting range has extended to about 6,300 miles out.

According to a source, LaVine was in constant contact with the front office at the start of free agency as well as with several of the players the Bulls were targeting while playing for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.

He took his best shot at the role of recruiter and delivered.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering how LaVine was talking up his role in the free-agent process at the start of the week.

“I should have a good idea of what’s going on,’’ LaVine said. “I take that very serious. I’m going to keep up to date on what’s going on back home but obviously still get my rest.’’

He did both even if it did make him the fourth-highest-paid player on the roster for the upcoming season.

With the Bulls reaching agreements with Lonzo Ball for four years and $85 million and DeMar DeRozan for three years and $85 million, LaVine dropped to the payroll cleanup spot.

Depending on the details, Ball will make an average of $21.3 million a season, and DeRozan is at $28 million. Big man Nikola Vucevic will make $24 million this upcoming season; LaVine is in the final season of a deal that will pay him $19.5 million.

Obviously, that could drastically change at this time next offseason, but LaVine showed during these last few weeks that he has no problem putting the salary ego in check for the betterment of his organization.

Not all former All-Star-quality Bulls thought that way.

That’s why LaVine should be applauded. When the Olympic team came together for training in Las Vegas last month, he acknowledged that the recruiting process was undoubtedly going to happen.

“I mean, players is gonna be players, man. You gonna mingle and talk,’’ LaVine said.

And for LaVine, that obviously didn’t mean mingling and talking solely to players in the Team USA camp. It doesn’t mean he’s done, either.

There’s still the ongoing drama with restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls could do a sign-and-trade with him for another piece, especially after Markkanen reiterated Friday that he would like a fresh start elsewhere in an interview with Finnish media.

Markkanen had been expressing — privately and publicly — that sentiment with Chicago media the last two seasons.

So how did LaVine do in his first major recruiting venture? He should be proud.

NOTE: Swingman Javonte Green reportedly is returning to the Bulls on a two-year deal.

The front office and coaching staff loved his defensive energy last season.

Free-agent grades for the Bulls

Lonzo Ball, PG

The Bulls’ interest in Ball has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the league since 2019, when the old regime was making inquiries. Then a Laker, Ball’s camp leaked that Chicago was a preferred destination for the 2017 No. 2 pick, and GarPax definitely gave it a sniff.

With these Bulls needing a true point guard, as well as a player who can control tempo and be a willing defender for coach Billy Donovan, the timing was perfect. More important, Ball can be a star — along with Patrick Williams — for the second wave of talent that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is bringing in, so this was a home run. Grade: A

Alex Caruso, G

There’s a pretty simple reason why this signing happened. The Bulls’ guards were terrible at disrupting the pick-and-roll at the point of attack, and that’s Caruso’s specialty. Is $9.2 million a year pricey for the former Laker? Maybe, but the Bulls were paying Cristiano Felicio $8 million a year the last few seasons to guard the end of the bench and model street clothes. Grade: B-

DeMar DeRozan, SF

The third year of the deal could hurt, but for the upcoming season, DeRozan could be a perfect fit. The 20 points a game are nice, but it’s his playmaking ability at small forward that will shine in Donovan’s system. Grade: B+

Tony Bradley, C

The big man is a rim protector who could have a few solid moments off the bench. Great pickup for the money and the need. Grade: B