The time for contract talk will come.
It certainly won’t be in a public forum, and definitely wasn’t going to play out during Monday’s media day, with training camp less than 24 hours away.
For now, the only talk Zach LaVine was interested in had to do with “hardhats” and getting to know his new teammates.
“My plan is to [Tuesday] get ready for training camp, get ready for the season, and try and help these guys win just like everybody else,” LaVine said, when asked about his pending free agency after the 2021-22 season. “I’m not worried about my contract right now. That will be a point and time in the future, and my agent I will sit down and discuss it, go from there, but right now it’s about the Bulls and getting better tomorrow.”
A much different sounding LaVine than the one from the end of a disappointing 2020-21 season, where LaVine’s contract “plan” then involved getting “what I deserve, and whatever that is I’ll have it coming to me.”
Why the softer stance now?
He can thank his front office for that.
Not only did they give him better pieces this offseason, but they kept him in the loop about those pieces, listened to his opinion on those pieces, and then reiterated how they also feel about LaVine in their long-term future plans.
“The one thing we know is that we’re committed to Zach,” Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said. “We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think the trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that.”
It proved something.
Karnisovas & Co. added Nikola Vucevic at the deadline last season, and then this offseason added Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan.
That’s two All-Stars, an elite ball-handler/play-maker with Ball, and a guard in Caruso who thrives on doing the dirty work that LaVine hasn’t always wanted to get involved with.
But that also comes with expectations.
Bowing out when the postseason arrives like the Bulls have done for four straight seasons isn’t really an option. Especially if they are invested in LaVine as a max player, and a scenario in which they could have to pay him $201.3 million over the next five years.
LaVine, who has never reached the playoffs, is well aware of that, but also aware that his skillset does come with a hefty price tag. If he focuses on winning basketball games rather than winning the PR battle about his contract, someone will pay him.
Although he did like hearing Karnisovas insist that the organization was committed to LaVine.
“It means a lot hearing that from them,” LaVine said. “I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy, I’m excited with all the moves that were made, and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started because we all have a lot to prove.
“This is the most excited I’ve been, especially with the talent of the team that we have here, the support [the front office has] given me, I’m extremely happy about that, and I’m ready to hit the ground running and go out there and just get it going. There’s an excitement around the city, but there’s a bigger excitement around the team as well because we know we can do something.”