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Zach LaVine has been involved in multiple trade rumors during his seven seasons with the Chicago Bulls. And typically, the two-time All-Star responds to them with some variation of “if it didn’t come from my mouth, don’t believe them.”
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That’s why Tuesday’s news that LaVine and the Bulls are open to exploring a trade for him and, more important, LaVine’s public response on Wednesday is so significant.
LaVine didn’t take his typical path.
“That’s why I have representatives like Rich Paul. If he speaks on my behalf, that’s my agent. That’s who I obviously have my camp with. They talk to Artūras (Karnišovas) and them,” LaVine said. “My job is to go out here and play. Simple as that.”
Multiple outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, reported on Tuesday that LaVine, for the first time, is open potentially to a change of scenery. A trade market could take awhile to materialize and, obviously, there are no guarantees the Bulls will find a proper package.
But this feels different.
“My camp talks to them all the time. It’s not like we’re not in a good relationship or a good talking space. We understand the business of basketball, I do more than most people. People talk. I’ve been in trade talks for a long time, so I understand the situation,” LaVine said. “But once news is always broken it’s a big thing. It’s not like it will be the first or the last time it’s going to happen with my name. As of right now I’m excited to still put this jersey on and go out here and play, try and get this win (Wednesday).”
Asked directly if he wants to be elsewhere, LaVine didn’t opt for yes or no.
“If we need to talk about that at a time, you know … right now is not that time to really talk about that. Play the Orlando Magic (Wednesday), try and get a win,” he said. “If something comes obviously out later on that will be the time I talk about it.
“I mean, I think it’s a combination of things where if you’re in a losing situation or a place you’re not winning games, people are frustrated. From players to the front office, the coaches … we’re not happy because we’re not winning. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s just the nature of the business. More things come up when you’re not in a winning environment.”
The Bulls held exploratory trade talks centered on LaVine during the offseason, but those didn’t gain traction, sources said at the time. NBC Sports Chicago reported then that some members of the organization have wavered in their belief as LaVine as a lead option on a championship-contending team.
Asked if he feels supported by the organization, LaVine said yes.
“I’ve been supported in Chicago for a long time. I’ve been here for seven years now, and never not been supported,” he said. “Love my time here in Chicago, always loved being a Bull, and that hasn’t changed.
“That’s why I’m here. They obviously offered me a contract to be here for a long time. Do I think we’re a championship team right now? No, but it’s a work in progress. I think everybody goes through ups and down, players, teams, we’re in a situation now where we just want to win. That’s all I want to do too.
“Do I feel frustrated? I’m frustrated we’re not winning. I think if you’re not frustrated, that’s a problem. It’s an upsetting thing when we’ve been trying to do the right thing for the last three or four years. It seems like we’re in the same place. We’re trying to get over that hump. We’re working every day for it. We’re going to keep doing that.”
And for those worried about LaVine not remaining professional or committed to winning, there’s no need.
“I don’t take anything for granted. My time here has been nothing but wonderful. I’ve grown up here. I’ve raised a family here. Had some great memories,” LaVine said. “Hopefully, people understand that, how much I care about Chicago.
“If I don’t have any beliefs, there’s no reason for me to go out there and play. As long as I put that Chicago Bulls jersey on, I’m going out there to win and play my heart out.”
And perhaps all this goes away. Perhaps the Bulls start winning, LaVine regains his All-Star form and this becomes forgotten fodder down the road.
“If you’re in a winning situation, a lot of rumors and trade things don’t come up,” LaVine said. “Obviously, we want to get a win (Wednesday) and get things back on track.”
But this situation is different than those in the past where LaVine’s name has landed in trade rumors.
“This is a business, man,” LaVine said. “We’ve dealt with a lot more than people talking in the media. There’s been a lot more than that. Obviously, there was some news in the media. But we’re grown men. We’re a professional business. We know how to handle that.”