How important is getting into that postseason environment with this group and making a deep run with these guys before your upcoming contract negotiations? Zach LaVine: For me, it’s not even about my contract. I’m a competitor. I want to go to the playoffs and play on the big stage. Contract, everything, that all comes. But I look at it day by day. You can’t get to April in a day. You’re gonna have to play and compete each and every day to get there, and then once the playoffs come, we gotta go do our thing. You know I’m really excited. I’m really excited to be on that stage, because I haven’t been there yet.
The Bulls have quickly elevated to the top of the East, with shrewd trades and signings — and keeping LaVine as a rare holdover. This regime keeps its strategy a mystery, but Zach LaVine is making a case for a max contract — which he won’t definitively say but won’t deny, either. “I think we all get what we deserve at the level we play at, for our team and around the league. I think I stack up with everybody at that level,” he said. “We’ll let the chips fall. Is the [max] the goal? I don’t know if it’s the goal, but I should be getting what I deserve. I’ll let them tell me what that is and we’ll go from there.”
He’ll be a free agent in July — an unrestricted free agent. A big playoff run could erase any remaining doubts, if there are any. “Free agency is gonna be a big milestone for me,” LaVine told Yahoo Sports. “It's my first time going into it really being [an] unrestricted free agent. I dealt with it being restricted before so it's a whole new experience. I'm excited for the season with the Bulls. But you know, moving forward, it's gonna be a whole new experience for me.”
That restricted free agency experience sticks with him. He’s not on the Michael Jordan scale of petty or the Scottie Pippen scale of delusion, but he quietly craves the validation. LaVine is eligible for a five-year deal around $200 million this summer if he re-signs with the Bulls — and higher if he makes an All-NBA team. He can get a four-year deal around $160 million if he outright signs with another team. “I remember everything now,” LaVine said, smiling. “I know it's a different front office, a different time. But I'm gonna take it day by day and let my agent handle it. But I remember everything. It's something — I always have a chip on my shoulder for multiple reasons.”
KC Johnson: I’d say every indication I’ve been given both internally from his side and the organization is this is a match made to move forward together. I don’t think you expend the draft capital this regime has doled out in the Vucevic trade and the DeRozan acquisition without doing everything in your power to appease your No. 1 player and to try and win now. We know the Bulls have the ability to pay him more than any other franchise. There’s also not a lot of cap space out there this summer. With the funky situations with Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving, are there some All-NBA spots up for grabs in the backcourt in the league? If he earns that distinction, he’s super-max eligible. There are a million reasons why I think he’s going to be here long-term. He has really embraced being the face of the franchise ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, even when they were bad. He’s always been front and center as the star of the team, always available media-wise, he’s a good representative of the franchise, he loves living in Chicago, he loves the history and legacy of the franchise.
That’s what matters now more than anything for LaVine — getting wins. Will victories influence him to want to stay with the Bulls or will he look to go elsewhere? Talk for another day. “I wouldn’t even be worried about my contract situation,’’ LaVine said. “I’m worried about Game 1 and seeing where it goes from there. When that time comes, we’ll see what happens and go from there, but I’m worried about the Bulls’ season right now.’’
Even if the Bulls fail to make the playoffs again, he is still a good bet to re-sign with them given how little cap space there is elsewhere. Vucevic is also currently eligible for an extension worth up to three years, $85.5 million. He can only sign it during the offseason.
Zach LaVine was excited by the Chicago Bulls' aggressive offseason, but says this season is crucial in determining the direction for the team and himself as he enters the final season of his contract. "At the end of the day it's a business," LaVine told ESPN on Thursday. "They did what was best for the team and I will continue to go out there and do what's best for the team as well. This season going forward is going to be extremely crucial not just for me but for everybody. Winning would take care of everything."
The Bulls and LaVine did have extension discussions before free agency, sources said, but they did not find common ground. Instead Chicago executed sign-and-trade deals for Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan and signed Alex Caruso as a free agent last month, spending nearly $200 million as they look to break a four-year playoff drought.
"It showed they're all in to win and we're transforming the team to be competitive," said LaVine, who has never played in the playoffs in seven seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Bulls. "We have a whole new team ... we're going to hit the ground running. I was very happy with the offseason."
And right now, he's slated to be one of the marquee free agents on the market next season and will likely be a name discussed regularly in the coming months depending on whether the Bulls meet expectations. "I can't control any of those narratives, any of those thoughts or opinions," LaVine said about what is sure to be a season of rumors. "What I can control is what I do on the court. That's what I do best, I take care of business. I'll come into camp ready to be a good teammate and be a better leader every day and help my team win. I think that shows my value and I'll let my business part speak for itself when the time comes."
The Bulls’ offseason overhaul couldn’t have come at a better time, as Zach LaVine is on the final year of his contract with an extension yet to be signed. But if it were up to LaVine himself, he’s reportedly all-in on staying in the Windy City. That’s according to ESPN Chicago radio analyst David Kaplan, who’s heard from sources that the All-Star doesn’t want to go anywhere. Via ESPN 1000 FM: “He has told people that I know: ‘Hey man, if they want me here, I’m not going anywhere. I’m building this thing. I’m the first guy in the door. I wanna be part of this.'”
What is your take on the Zach LaVine FA rumors in 2022? How realistic is it for the Celtics financially and roster wise? Thanks, Jeff. Brian Robb: LaVine is a name that has been floated for a little bit as a potential target for Boston if Bradley Beal elects to stay put in Washington. His age and position do line up fairly well among Boston’s current group, however, there are some significant obstacles in any pursuit of the shooting guard during the next year.
A potential Celtics free agent target could be Chicago’s Zach LaVine, who is entering the final year of his contract. He will have to prove he can lead the Bulls to the playoffs before a contract extension. LaVine changed representation recently and signed with Klutch Sports, which is usually the move for players who want to maximize their free agent potential. LaVine, 26, just coming off helping Team USA to the gold medal, will ask for a maximum contract in the open market. The Olympic experience may have enhanced LaVine’s value because he was asked to be a three-and-D player, sparking the Americans with his full-court defense and ability to run the floor. In the case that Bradley Beal decides to stay in Washington, LaVine could be the Celtics’ No. 1 target. The Bulls, who added DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball in the offseason, have full intentions to be a factor in the Eastern Conference .
In the case that Bradley Beal decides to stay in Washington, LaVine could be the Celtics’ No. 1 target. The Bulls, who added DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball in the offseason, have full intentions to be a factor in the Eastern Conference
Rob Schaefer: Zach LaVine on what he’s conveyed to Bulls about a potential extension. If Bulls decide to take route to cap space, pursuing upgrades through free agency or renegotiating + extending LaVine’s current contract are two options on table.
"Obviously with the trade, it made us a lot better," LaVine agreed. "I loved it. I love it here in Chicago. I try to let my game do the talking for me, but also try to worry about the things I haven't accomplished yet, like winning. This year was great, but also frustrating at the same time. A lot of bright spots ahead. I'm very excited for the future."
The Sun-Times, as well as several other media outlets, reported at the start of the 2020-21 campaign that it was important for LaVine to be given max money moving forward. However, there are several sources who said that might not be the case any longer, as adding key role players around him could persuade LaVine to give the Bulls a slight discount.
Convincing Zach LaVine the Bulls are building a playoff contender is important when you consider the 26-year-old's "big focus" coming into the season was to get Chicago into the playoffs. That's why rival executives anticipate the Bulls will try to lock up LaVine with a contract extension (he will make $19.5 million this season and next) but know he'll likely let his deal lapse, become an unrestricted free agent and sign what will be a more lucrative multiyear max pact.
"That's why them getting Vooch was a really big deal," an Eastern Conference executive said. "Players want to get paid, just like we all do. But they also want to win, and guys like Zach have been around the block long enough to know they can't win in this league by themselves. LeBron's the best to do it, and he couldn't win it all by himself. Even he needed help." The exec added, "Them getting Vooch sent a clear message to Zach that yes, Chicago is serious about trying to put together a winner here and now."
Rob Schaefer: Asked by @CodyWesterlund if Vucevic trade makes him more likely to re-sign with Bulls long-term, Zach LaVine said: "I want to stay in Chicago. 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...
According to a source, LaVine is not only looking for All-Star respect, but financial respect when the time comes. The two sides could have inked a team-friendly three-year, $76-million deal before this season started, but moved on from it. What the organization has to ask themselves is do they want to commit $30-$35 million per year for a player that has elite scoring ability at the guard spot, but enough deficiencies in the rest of his game where he doesn’t translate into an alpha on a championship team?
Zach LaVine knows what you've been saying. He's got Twitter and Instagram, too. He knows you're hatin' on his defense, his choice of shots, his money; oh, so much of it with the reported $78 million/four-year contract offer from the Sacramento Kings which the Bulls Saturday matched to retain the restricted free agent. Zach says he's gotten flack like that before. And flown through it without a scratch. He will again, he promises. "People (are going) to put their own opinions on things, or everybody on social media, they try to judge you," LaVine told reporters Sunday night in Las Vegas in his first comments since the contract with the Bulls became official. "I'm my hardest critic. There's nothing that any of you (media) guys can say to me that I (don't) take harder upon myself. I go back and critique my game every year. I'm used to people sleeping on me, and I'm also used to waking them up as well. I'm happy that I have this contract, and I'm happy that I have a little extra motivation to go out there and prove it to some people that don't believe in me. At the end of the day, I believe in myself, I believe in my work, and I'm going to show the city of Chicago it's a good choice and I'm here to stay. I'm going to be their guy, and I'm ready to do whatever to help this team get back to that (championship) spot."
Nick Friedell: Hoiberg on LaVine deal: "I think we're all very excited about Zach coming back as a Bull and being here long-term."
Nick Friedell: Hoiberg on if Bulls have to mend relationship with LaVine after frustration he had to sign offer sheet with Kings. "Listen Zach's a great kid, he's a great teammate. We're going to move forward with the direction with this young group of guys that Zach's a huge part of obviously"
Zach LaVine: So excited to continue my career with the Bulls! Can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers in front of the greatest fans in the world!! I’m grateful to be able to call Chicago home. Now let’s get this going! #BullsNation
KC Johnson: Bulls make it official, match LaVine offer sheet. John Paxson: "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."
Sitting courtside at the Thomas & Mack Center before the Kings’ Las Vegas Summer League game against the Suns, Divac told the Tribune that LaVine, 23, has star potential that justified the lucrative offer and that he wasn’t concerned about a torn ACL that limited LaVine to 47 games with the Timberwolves in 2016-17 and 24 with the Bulls last season. “Zach is a very talented kid,” Divac said. “He works hard. I see him as one of the future elite shooting guards in this league. Before the injury, he showed a lot of progression. Now I believe he’s back where he was.”
KC Johnson: Can confirm @Adrian Wojnarowski report that offer sheet has language protecting team against LaVine’s surgically repaired left knee, per source. Bulls would’ve matched anyway but team-friendly clause beneficial.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Bulls have decided to match Sacramento's $78M offer sheet to Zach LaVine, league sources tell ESPN.
The Bulls, who have two days to match it if they want to retain him, have made LaVine a contract offer, but sources say it's not nearly as strong as the Kings'. "I'm disappointed that I had to get an offer sheet from another team," LaVine, 23, told The Undefeated. "But Sacramento stepped up and made a strong impression. It appears that Sacramento wants me more than Chicago."
A source said LaVine will take up the remaining Kings salary cap space available if his signing becomes official, but the franchise will still have flexibility to make more free agency moves next summer. The Seattle native debuted with the Bulls last season after recovering from left ACL surgery. The Kings are confident that LaVine is fully healthy and recovered him his knee injury, a source said.
Sean Cunningham: Source confirms Sacramento Kings have signed Zach LaVine to an offer sheet of 4 years for $78 million. LaVine visited team in Sacramento, told his health checks out fine. @Marc J. Spears first to report. Bulls 48 hours to match.
Michael Scotto: Zach LaVine’s four-year, $80 million offer sheet with the Sacramento Kings is fully guaranteed with no options, a league source told The Athletic.
Shams Charania: RFA Zach LaVine has agreed to a four-year, $80M offer sheet with the Sacramento Kings, league sources tell Yahoo. The Chicago Bulls have 48 hours to match.
The Kings have been linked to restricted free agents such as Milwaukee's Jabari Parker and Chicago's Zach LaVine, but nothing has come of the speculation. The Kings have expressed a level of interest in both, a league source said, but a deal would require the Kings to reshape their roster that has a lot of young players they'd like to develop.
Adrian Wojnarowski: "The restricted free agent market is just decimated. I don't know where these guys are going to get their money. The one hope is Zach LaVine and Sacramento - they've been pretty serious about doing that and maybe he can get an offer sheet from them."
The Bulls absolutely want to re-sign LaVine and Nwaba — and on multiyear deals. But management also wants to do so on deals that make fiscal sense long term. It’s believed the Bulls’ preferred annual salary for LaVine is in the $14 million-$16 million range.
Vincent Goodwill: The Atlanta Hawks are one of the team's showing interest in RFA Zach LaVine, according to sources
Nick Friedell: From Bulls perspective on LaVine, 4 yrs for $60 mil has always felt like preferred number to them. At 23, nobody is sure what kind of player he'll become. If I'm the Bulls I'm not going too much higher than that because I'm still not convinced he's worth that big of an investment
Jason Jones: Couple of free agency notes on the Kings (as of now): *Priority is small forward, team sees Jabari Parker as a PF and not a good fit. *Love LaVine's talent, but would have to move Hield and/or Bogdanovic to make a serious run at him. *A stretch 4 would be ideal at some point
As of Thursday, the Kings were poised to own roughly $18.7 million of salary-cap space when the NBA’s new fiscal calendar begins. If they choose to go the LaVine route, that would mean a four-year offer worth roughly $80 million, which the Bulls would have 72 hours to match.
The Bulls, who are expected to offer LaVine a multiyear deal at an annual salary lower than he is seeking, would almost certainly match that. But the Kings could make additional moves to clear more cap space and come closer to the max deal of four years and roughly $108 million that a rival team can offer LaVine. Such an offer could give the Bulls pause.
Vincent Goodwill: The Bulls have officially sent qualifying offers to Zach LaVine in addition to David Nwaba and Ryan Arcidiacono, making them restricted free agents
Nick Friedell: Bulls may still lock up restricted free agent Zach LaVine this summer -- but as an organization the near universal support LaVine once had internally isn't there anymore. Bulls will wait to see if he can find big $$$ elsewhere first and then decide if they want to match.
Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports joined Chris Mannix on the Chris Mannix Show to begin discussing free agency and said the executives around the league largely expect the Magic to match any offer for Gordon — even a max offer sheet. “I think both teams are aware they need to go to max numbers for them,” Charania says about the impending free agency for Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine. “But the question is will they make them go get a sheet. The sentiment I’ve gotten is if Zach LaVine goes and gets a max, we have too much invested in them. Same with Aaron Gordon.”
One dicey topic remains: the pending contract negotiations with soon-to-be restricted free agent Zach LaVine. And Paxson wasn’t in a position to clear things up. “Well, the market dictates a lot and how things go,’’ Paxson said. “I think the market has tightened up a little bit the last couple of years since the spike. We obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he’s a part of our future, but he has the opportunity to explore things. “Gar will get with his agent at the appropriate time and begin discussions about that, and it will play out the way it will play out. But we think he fits the direction we’re going, and we have great faith in his ability that he’ll have a great summer in terms of his work and his improvement as a player, and we’ll see. It’s up in the air and not defined yet, but we’ll do it the way we feel is right, and we’ll have good communication with Zach and his agent.’’
Paxson’s right about the situation not being “defined’’ publicly. Privately, things haven’t gotten contentious, but both sides have their feet firmly planted.
“I’m not stressed at all. Whatever the number is or terms they’re going to come to, it will happen. That’s why I have great agents. And we have respect, communication and understanding with the front office (so) we’ll let that work itself out. “I can’t let it get to me. It’s not going to. I have to prepare myself for next year and be ready to take on a bigger role and help the team get better.”
But does LaVine think he’s worth the max? “There are things you work for,” LaVine answered diplomatically. “Max players are top of the line. There are a lot of dudes in the NBA who haven’t been top of the line because of money situations or the cap is bigger or a weird offseason.
“You are what you’re worth. Obviously, you can’t say no to getting one. I see myself being an elite player in this league. I’m going to work for that every day until I get there.”
LaVine also won’t let himself feel rushed to cram a season’s worth of achievement into 29 games. He won’t necessarily be negotiating this summer from a position of strength in restricted free agency, but between his ongoing potential and established work habits, he believes business will take care of itself. Most likely right where he’s at in Chicago. “Whatever happens is going to happen. I have no fear in that,” LaVine said. “It’s unfortunate I had the injury. I was in a good spot in Minnesota, the team was picking it up at that time. But that’s part of the game – injuries happen – and one way or another, I’ll get a contract sooner or later. That doesn’t worry me at all. I know my play and my hard work and dedication will take care of that.
Nick Friedell: Zach LaVine reiterated that he expects to be a Bull for a long time. Confident he will get a deal done this summer.
KC Johnson: Zach LaVine said it’s “fine” he and Bulls didn’t reach rookie contract extension. “I know I’m going to be in black and red for a long time.”
KC Johnson: Re LaVine: As long as he returns without issue from injury, as all expect, Bulls will re-sign him next summer. He's centerpiece of rebuild.
SI: With all the money that has been thrown around, does that kind of plant the seed of when you become a restricted free agent in 2018? Zach LaVine: “Hey man, at the end of the day, we work hard and this is how we make our living. We go in the gym and whatever we get its going to be respectable, but you definitely look forward to all that stuff and see your hard work pay off.”
August 12, 2022 | 7:41 pm EDT Update
Marc Stein: The first draft of next season’s NBA schedule has Lakers at Dallas/LeBron James at Luka Doncic on Christmas Day, league sources tell me. Changes are still possible before the full schedule officially drops next week but Christmas games usually hold. More NBA from me: marcstein.Substack.com
Although all of the rules and dates are in place, it’s an extremely open secret that there are no rules that truly govern free agency or trades. “There’s not a team in this league that follows the tampering rules to a T,” one front-office executive said. “But there are 30 teams in this league that find ways around the rules every day.”
One person from the league office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said if a better solution was presented the league would jump at it, but there’s no hope that any such solution exists. “The threat of harsher penalties and random audits doesn’t even make teams flinch,” the source said. “And at this point, if we investigated every possible instance of tampering, the whole league would come to a screeching halt and nothing would ever get done.”
Grant Williams said he has been in contact with Brown since the rumors began gaining steam this summer. “It’s a significant rumor,” said Williams who added, “It’s something you want to take for a grain of salt. I feel like JB is mature in his mindset; he knows that. I’ve talked to him, texted him…it’s one of those things, this league is a business. It’s one of those things you can’t be discouraged by.”
NBA Central: Kyrie and Russ in the lab 👀 (h/t @LakersDailyCom | via integrityhoops) pic.twitter.com/LST041ZNXI
August 12, 2022 | 5:50 pm EDT Update
Tony Jones: Sam Merrill received a two year deal from the Sacramento Kings, League Sources tell The Athletic. The deal comes with a partial guarantee, so he will have to make the roster. But the Kings currently have spots available. @Chris Haynes first reported an agreement
Chris Haynes: Free agent forward Justin Tillman who made All-NBA G-League First Team last season has reached an agreement with the Denver Nuggets, his agent Daniel Hazan of @hazansportsmgmt tells @YahooSports.