Zach LaVine puts Kings’ offer sheet behind him after returning to Bulls
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LAS VEGAS — There are millions of reasons for Zach LaVine to get over the disappointment of the way his contract extension was handled by the Bulls this summer.
Seventy-eight million to be exact.
Now the healing can begin.
The team announced Sunday that it had exercised its right of first refusal and matched the four-year, $78 million offer sheet extended to the restricted free agent by the Kings. Not that it came as any surprise. Bulls sources indicated when the Kings’ offer was made Friday that they would match it within the 48-hour time limit.
That didn’t mean LaVine was happy about it.
“I’m disappointed that I had to get an offer sheet from another team,’’ LaVine told ESPN’s The Undefeated after the Kings’ offer came in. “But Sacramento stepped up and made a strong impression. It appears that Sacramento wants me more than Chicago.’’
He walked that back a bit Sunday night.
“I think a lot of that got taken out of context,’’ LaVine said. “The main thing I wanted in getting my point across was I wanted to just deal with Chicago. I never wanted to get to the point of an offer sheet.
“Regardless, we’re going to put that behind us. I’m happy as hell that I’m going to be able to play for the team that I wanted to play for. So I’m happy, my agency is happy. I talked to Gar [Forman] and Pax [John Paxson], talked to coach [Fred] Hoiberg, we’re all ecstatic to try and get this franchise back to where it belongs. But a lot of stuff with media, emotions, whatever it is, it can be taken out of context.
“I want it to be known that I never had any bad will toward Chicago. You guys were the first team to show interest in me from Minnesota, and I’m extremely happy to be back.’’
He isn’t the only one.
“Zach is a great kid, he’s a great teammate and we’re going to move forward with the direction with these young guys, and Zach is a huge part of that, obviously,’’ Hoiberg said when asked if any healing was necessary between now and the start of training camp. “We’re all very excited about Zach coming back as a Bull and being here long term.”
So why was the Bulls’ initial offer almost $8 million less, and why did it take them almost 36 of the 48 hours to match the Kings’ offer?
Call it more Bulls slow-play.
Not that they were in a position to let LaVine walk, considering they gave up Jimmy Butler and a draft pick to land LaVine, Kris Dunn and the draft rights to Lauri Markkanen last summer.
“We were excited last summer when we got a dynamic athlete in Zach LaVine through the trade, and we’re excited now that we get to keep him,’’ Paxson said in a statement.
LaVine made his Bulls debut Jan. 13, as the team was cautious during his rehab from knee surgery. He played in only 24 games because of some late-season tendinitis in the knee, averaging 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and three assists in 27.3 minutes.
As far as those questioning the $78 million price tag, Hoiberg isn’t concerned.
“There’s obviously a ton of value in Zach and what we feel he can bring long term to the organization,’’ Hoiberg said. “And again, he fits the way we want to play with his athleticism.’’