The Bulls’ Zach LaVine finding out max deal comes with max expectations

Zach LaVine is no stranger to bad night’s at the office.

The amount of times it led to his benching, however, especially in crunch time? Well, the Bulls guard can count that on one hand. Maybe one finger, and hopefully not the same one he seemingly wanted to flash in his coach’s direction after the Friday loss to Orlando.

“You play a guy like me down the stretch,” LaVine said in the wake of the Magic winning their first road game of the entire season. “Do I like the decision? No. Do I have to live with it? Yeah. Be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.”

With the 13-3 Celtics coming to town on Monday, he’d better be more than just ready to lace the shoes up and play the next game.

Welcome to life as a max contract player, Mr. LaVine.

The lights are brighter, the expectations higher, and the scrutiny rabid.

First, it’s important to point out that coach Billy Donovan’s decision to sit LaVine in the wake of a dismal 1-for-14 shooting night, was the right one. Trailing by four with 3:43 left, Donovan went with second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, and for the next three minutes and 38 seconds it looked brilliant.

The Bulls not only chased Orlando’s lead down, but took a four-point lead after a Dosunmu blocked shot. It appeared Dosunmu would play hero again, as he stymied Jalen Suggs from driving to the hoop with the clock ticking down. However, credit the Magic guard for hitting a ridiculous step-back three with five seconds left.

A shot that gut-punched the Bulls into a fourth-straight loss, but also left them answering questions of why they suddenly had the most expensive cheerleader in the Midwest sitting on their bench with the game on the line?

“I was trying to do what was best for our team in that moment,” Donovan said of his decision. “That’s my job and my responsibility. To me, I don’t look at it as anything else other than a one-off game.”

It needs to be.

In all likelihood, expect LaVine to come out against Boston and have a good showing. That’s just how he’s wired. The issue with this Bulls roster, however, remained they need great from LaVine, not just good.

And great on both ends of the floor.

Considering where LaVine is in his return from an offseason clean-up surgery on his left knee, that’s all but asking for the impossible.

Which leads to the real question the front office has refused to answer – or simply might not want to answer: Did they actually know LaVine’s knee was still an issue when they inked him to a five-year, $215-million deal last summer?

LaVine told the media right after he signed that the knee “was great,” and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas never expressed that the knee was a concern. Yet, hours before the regular-season tipped off in Miami, it was announced that LaVine would miss that game and start the year on a knee management schedule.

A schedule that Donovan called “expected.”

Now, 16 games into this 2022-23 campaign, LaVine has been playing and practicing on a more regular basis, but obviously isn’t right.

“[LaVine] doesn’t have any issues, but you could still see – and I think everybody can see – there are times he’s going to the rim and he’s not finishing like he normally has,” Donovan said. “I really believe that will come back as he gets more and more playing time, more and more games underneath his belt.”

The Bulls better hope so.

It’s been easy for the fan base to blame Nikola Vucevic for his inconsistencies or pile on Patrick Williams for too many games in a witness protection program rather than looking like a No. 4 overall draft pick, but if the Bulls are ever to be more than mediocre under the life of this contract that falls directly on Karnisovas and LaVine.

Being a max guy is life changing, but also comes with a lease of expectations.

LaVine is finding out that this month’s rent is already past due.

Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *