Zach LaVine met only with Chicago Bulls in free agency, says to do otherwise would’ve been ‘disrespectful’

CHICAGO — Though Zach LaVine said he “openly” went into free agency in the NBA this summer, his decision to return to the Chicago Bulls turned out to be an easy one, especially after the team offered him a contract with a maximum five-year extension with a player option for the fifth season.

“Chicago is my home,” LaVine said Monday during a video call with reporters. “We’ve built something over the last few years – at least for me, I’ve been here for five years – and built something over the last two or three years. Being able to come back as a cornerstone and allow them to have some of my insights, some of my input into building the roster to help me and help us win was really great for me.

In his first comments since signing a five-year, $215 million extension to remain in Chicago, LaVine said he had not met with any other team during free agency and said he believed it would be disrespectful been to do this.

Respect was key for LaVine during his contract negotiations. He believed he had surpassed his previous contract, having progressed to a two-time All-Star during the four-year, $78 million deal he signed in 2018, and made it clear last summer that he respects that wanted to act. The Bulls met his demands and gave him the largest contract in franchise history and more than any other team could have offered him.

“I went into the offseason with an open mind. I set my goals like I always have,” LaVine said. “I was able to meet once [general manager Marc Eversley and Bulls VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas] and they came to me with anything I wanted, there was no other reason for me to go outside and look at any other teams.

“I think that would have been disrespectful to me because they gave me everything I asked for. Everything on the table that I looked at had Chicago as all pros. I also did my due diligence in my spare time and looked things over and made a decision for myself and my family. But my heart was in Chicago.

LaVine, 27, will be entering his sixth season with the Bulls after joining the organization as one of the centerpieces in the Chicago-to-Minnesota Jimmy Butler trade. He missed most of his freshman season in Chicago, playing 24 games after recovering from a cruciate ligament tear in his left knee, which he sustained while with the Timberwolves.

Since then, LaVine has become one of the faces of the franchise, even as the team struggled on the court. The Bulls missed the playoffs in their first four seasons before a roster overhaul brought Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball to play alongside LaVine. Last season, Chicago made the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

“It’s just a show of respect, they look at me for the type of player I’ve been for the last four years and see what I can bring to the table going forward,” LaVine said. “I’m happy, I’m excited and I’m working with myself to bring myself back, it’s been great.

“Individually, [I want] to keep pushing myself to achieve higher and higher things; if they’re not All-NBAs, if they’re not MVPs, as far as the team goes, then it’s a championship to win. I think there is nothing about that. You’ve heard me say that individual things come with winning and as we get better and better as a team and I keep pushing myself to get better as a player, I think those things can come together.

LaVine averaged 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 67 games last season and spent most of the second half nursing a left knee injury that required surgery. The Bulls were grateful that LaVine — despite being clearly handicapped at some points during the season — continued to play through the injury during a contract year and didn’t view his injury as a handicap in negotiating a new deal.

LaVine underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee in May, the same one that required ACL surgery in 2017. He described the process as “an ordinary knee telescope”.

“I feel a lot better,” he said on Monday. “I rehab, exercised, played, lifted, did all the good stuff and the boring stuff. You have to start slowly, as always. It’s been good and I’m feeling really good, and over the next two months, coming back into the season, I feel like I’m going to get even better.” Zach LaVine met only with Chicago Bulls in free agency, says to do otherwise would’ve been ‘disrespectful’

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