The Bulls gave Zach LaVine his money, but now it’s time for him to give back
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LAS VEGAS — Bulls guard Zach LaVine has found himself in a strange place the last 72 hours. Not that LaVine was unfamiliar with the terrain, having already gone through the draft process, a trade and now free agency entering his fifth NBA season.
Still, explaining your perceived value to the general public isn’t the norm for most people.
The range of opinions LaVine was hearing late Sunday ran the gamut, with some saying that the Bulls shouldn’t have matched the four-year, $78 million offer sheet the Kings gave him, others saying that keeping him was almost a necessary evil and others saying that the price tag was a value for the Bulls.
‘‘I know what I’m worth, man,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I put a lot of hard work into this. People are going to put their own opinion on things or . . . they try and judge you, but I came back last year [from surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament], played in 24 games. We had an understanding that I was obviously getting back on the court and getting my rhythm down, things like that.
‘‘I knew what my market [value] was even in a dry market. I knew [the salary] I was going to be around, and I’m glad we were able to come to a conclusion and both sides are happy with that.’’
For now, both sides are happy. The Bulls kept their athletic guard, and LaVine got more than many expected in an offseason in which NBA wallets have been tight.
Now it’s about moving forward and making sure both sides can stay happy, and a lot of that falls on LaVine.
Can he be a true leader and know that doesn’t mean taking the most shots? Can he deal with Lauri Markkanen being the focal point of the offense? Does he have the will to play defense, on the ball and off it?
He was saying the right things, but this is a league of actions more than words.
‘‘You know, I’m my hardest critic,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘There’s nothing you guys [the media] could say to me that I take harder upon myself. I go back and critique my game every year. I’m used to people sleeping on me, and I’m used to waking them up, as well.
‘‘I believe in myself, I believe in my work and I’m going to show the city of Chicago that it’s a good choice and I’m here to stay.’’
The chance to show that starts now. Yes, training camp is still a couple of months away, but it’s now up to LaVine to make sure he pushes his teammates to get together to work out this summer. It’s up to him to set a tone, especially on defense.
Young players often will follow the money, and no one on the roster is making more than LaVine.
‘‘With power comes responsibility, and I feel like I’m able to take that on,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I have to live up to my own potential, and I keep that in the back of my head. Regardless of what you guys have to say, I have to answer to myself first.’’
At some point, however, he’s going to have to answer to more than just himself.