CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls are hopeful that All-Star guard Zach LaVine will opt to re-sign with him instead of joining another team as an unrestricted free agent.
Executive Vice President Arturas Karnisova has been consistent in publicly saying that the organization wants to keep LaVine. And he did it again on Monday.
“We hope Zach is here a long time, and nothing has changed,” Karnisova said at a news conference introducing first-round draft pick Dylan Terry.
LaVine’s situation is clearly the biggest story looming over the Bulls, with the free-agent negotiation period beginning Thursday evening.
Karnisova wants to retain the core that helped Chicago reach the playoffs for the first time in five years.
LaVine averaged 24.4 points and made his second consecutive All-Star team last season. This ended with his first trip to the playoffs in his eighth year as a pro. The Bulls lost in five games to Milwaukee in the first round.
LaVine’s four-year, $78 million contract has expired, and he said after the season that he plans to explore the market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career after five years in Chicago. . He did not rule out returning to the Bulls, who can offer a maximum contract of around $212 million. He can get around $157 million from any other team over a maximum of four years.
How comfortable the Bulls are about offering a five-year deal is another question. Karnisova played it fearless when asked.
“I’m confident. I’m looking forward to contacting this free agency over the next few days, sitting down with our group, looking at a lot of things,” he said.
Last season wasn’t exactly an easy one for LaVine. He dealt with a thumb injury early and was in and out of the lineup over the past few months due to a left knee injury.
LaVine had platelet-rich plasma therapy, a cortisone injection, and fluid drained from a knee in Los Angeles prior to the All-Star break. He had arthroscopic surgery last month.
“I think he’s going to be healthy,” Karnisova said. “I think he’s making great progress now.”
The Bulls went 46–36 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2017, after a major turnaround, with Demar DeRozan and LaVine taking the lead. Chicago made a big start and finished with their best ever record as the 2014–15 team went 50–32 in former coach Tom Thibodeau’s final season.
The Bulls also finished sixth from the Eastern Conference lead, losing 15 of their final 22 regular-season games. He suffered a long list of injuries, which made it difficult for him to develop consistency and compete with the best teams.
“This group has been here since October,” Karnisova said. “We’re still trying to get used to playing with each other.”