Notice was served as far as Zach LaVine was concerned.
Not only to the remaining Bulls players still having a locker at the Advocate Center after the trade-deadline purge, but to the entire league.
“That they’re not here to mess around,” LaVine said on Friday, when asked what message was sent out by his new front office regime. “They’re ready to win and they’ll do anything it takes to make this organization better and get back to where this franchise should be at. That’s what I got from it.”
“I’ve always wanted to play with a dominant big, and you know we’re obviously going to have to figure out our chemistry, but with a guy like that who is so talented offensively, he’s dominant in the post, in the mid-range, he facilitates, he can pop for the three, so I think a combination of us in pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops, is going to be deadly,” LaVine said of the former Orlando standout center. “I know him pretty well. Been having his number for a while and we became real close friends, so I’m very happy he was able to find his way over here, and it’s a blessing.”
Also acquired by the Bulls were Al-Farouq Aminu, Troy Brown Jr., Daniel Theis and guard Javonte Green. Only Theis did not make it to Chicago, and he will miss the Saturday game in San Antonio wrapping up some family issues, according to coach Billy Donovan.
The hard-nosed Celtics big man will then meet up with his new team in San Francisco in time to take on the Warriors.
But because of players getting their physicals and the Bulls needing to catch a flight to Texas, the first time Donovan will have a chance to start integrating the newest pieces into the puzzle will be at the Saturday morning shootaround.
After that? It’s not a kind schedule to a team looking for practice time with just 29 games left. There’s the real test for Donovan.
“I think that’s going to be the challenge,” Donovan said. “You have a lot of new players coming in here right now. We’re all going to have to kind of learn our way. You want to make sure you can do it maybe sooner than later.
“We have to try to work through some things. You obviously try to probably shrink a lot of things playbook wise, try to create some clarity defensively for those guys. There will be some things they have to learn as well and will have to learn playing with new players. All those guys were probably in some kind of system or playing with very familiar faces that all of a sudden has changed to not only for them but for the guys who are currently here. I think we have a lot to work through.”
The two that will be counted on to figure it out the quickest? That’s no mystery.
On paper, LaVine and Vucevic should be a match-up nightmare. On paper, however, the Bulls shouldn’t be losing to the Cavaliers or blowing 24-point leads to the Spurs.
LaVine feels like the two will click right away. What he also feels is he now has a front office that understood he needed help to reach his postseason goals.
“Yeah, we got another big-time player here,” LaVine said. “For me personally, that’s something that’s really big and speaks volumes to me and not just on how they see me but how they see the organization and what they’re trying to do moving forward.
“That’s big because I want to win. That’s all I’ve been talking about the last couple years. And I think this puts us in the right foothold of being able to put some wins on the board.”
The foothold they were wedged into on Friday afternoon, was 10th in the Eastern Conference and holding onto a play-in spot for the postseason. The good news was only the three top spots held down by Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Brooklyn looked out of reach.
The bad news? A brutal schedule that sits in front of the Bulls, with teams like Atlanta, Boston and Miami each improving after Thursday’s deadline as well. What’s nice is Vucevic is not only experienced but versatile.
That should make it easier for him to get acclimated.
“He can do a lot of different things,” Donovan said of his new starting center. “The one thing that has been really encouraging in our conversations that I’ve had with Vuc is he’s a big believer and big proponent of ball movement and player movement. I think he feels like everybody being involved in the game, everybody moving and cutting and playing off each other and him facilitating some of that stuff, I think he likes that. And I think that’s the way he feels the game should be played, and I’m in alignment with him on that.”
What LaVine was in alignment with is now feeling like there’s long-term reasons to stay a Bull. The organization will be looking to extend him this offseason, so of course he was asked if the Vucevic deal sweetens the pot to stay.
“I want to stay in Chicago,” LaVine said with a laugh. “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. Adding someone like this and being more attractive in the free-agent market to bring more players here is always a bonus for any player.”