Bulls guard Zach LaVine feels he’s a max player, wants to be paid like one

He will take a week to “chill out” before seeing his knee specialist and mapping out a plan for this summer to get back to 100%. The Bulls want to re-sign the unrestricted free agent, but LaVine will be open to all offers.

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Bulls free agent-to-be Zach LaVine expects to get a max offer.

Bulls free agent-to-be Zach LaVine expects to get a max offer.

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Throughout the season, Bulls guard Zach LaVine made the team his first order of business, even ahead of his ailing left knee.

On Friday, with the 2021-22 season in the books for the organization, he was strictly business. -Period.

Let the game of chicken begin.

Meeting with the media after his exit interview with the front office and coaching staff, LaVine reiterated what he has warned about for years: He views himself as a max player and, entering unrestricted free agency this summer, wants to be compensated as such.

If he remains with the Bulls — who can pay LaVine the most — that would mean a five-year deal worth somewhere around $212 million and $42.4 million per year. If he signs elsewhere, it would be for four years but still at $40 million-plus per season.

While both sides have indicated that they want to work out a deal, even if it means wading into the luxury-tax area at some point, the Bulls also were hoping that the two-time All-Star would consider that the more money he leaves on the table, the more wiggle room they would have to build the roster around him.

It’s a nice thought, but LaVine didn’t sound like he was in the mood to do the organization any favors during the upcoming negotiations.

“I plan to enjoy free agency as a whole,’’ LaVine said. “I think you’re going to have to experience A to Z without making any fast decisions. I think that’s something that me and [agent] Rich [Paul] get to go through and experience.’’

Translation: LaVine will be open to all -offers.

That’s the Paul way and what his agency, Klutch Sports, brings to the table. Hometown discounts are nice . . . for other guys.

“[Being a max player is] important to me,’’ LaVine said. “But you get paid what you’re valued at, and I see myself as a top guy in this league. And I think I’ve proved that over the last four years. And that’s where we’re going in negotiating. I think that’s what [general manager] Marc [Eversley], [executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas] and Rich are going to have to discuss.’’

Karnisovas seemed to be looking forward to that discussion.

During his session with the media on Friday, Karnisovas stressed “continuity’’ in the organization, using that buzzword over and over. That includes bringing LaVine back if the sides can find common ground.

“The thing is, we have a really good relationship with [LaVine]; he knows exactly what to expect here,’’ Karnisovas said. “The last two years have been the best years of his career, so we’ll see what happens.’’

First things first, though. LaVine is taking the next week off to “chill out,’’ then seeing his knee specialist in Los Angeles to figure out what the next move is to get him back to 100%.

LaVine has been dealing with swelling and discomfort in the knee since early December, and a source said he already had told teammates an exploratory surgery was needed.

He was still trying to downplay that scenario but touched upon how much maintenance it actually took to keep going, including “overtime’’ for the training staff.

“Once I get back to L.A., I’ll go see my doctor, communicate with him and figure out what’s the best plan of action,’’ LaVine said. “Right now, I don’t know. We’ll figure that out.’’

The Bulls would like to know the results as soon as possible, even though they don’t appear to be much of a factor.

When asked if the knee could be a sticking point in the negotiations with LaVine, Karnisovas said, “No, I don’t think so.’’

Don’t think so?

Game on.

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