Reports: Zach LaVine to return to Bulls on 5-year max contract

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(670 The Score) Bulls guard Zach LaVine blossomed into a star in Chicago, and that’s exactly where he’ll remain for the foreseeable future.

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LaVine has agreed to return to the Bulls on a five-year, $215.2-million maximum contract, Shams Charania of the Athletic reported late Friday morning. The deal includes a player option for the fifth year, the Athletic reported. The contract represents the largest contract the Bulls have ever awarded a player in franchise history.

“I’ve been here for the last five years,” LaVine said at his season-ending exit interview in late April. “I’ve really enjoyed my time. I think the city and I hope everybody understands how much I care about the Bulls and what I’ve done for the city.

“Obviously, you guys (in Chicago) have been a really, really soft spot in my heart.”

Retaining LaVine was the Bulls’ biggest priority this offseason, as he’s a two-time All-Star who’s on the front end of his prime at 27 years old. Potentially losing LaVine for nothing in unrestricted free agency was a risk the Bulls endured after choosing to fortify their roster around him in summer 2021 rather than open up cap space to sign him to an extension before he hit the open market.

In the end, the Bulls’ strategy worked exactly as planned. LaVine appreciated the Bulls’ high-profile additions a year ago – which included acquiring all-NBA forward DeMar DeRozan, starting point guard Lonzo Ball and defensive menace Alex Caruso – as they helped Chicago to a 46-36 regular season and the franchise’s first playoff berth in five years. The postseason appearance was also the first of LaVine’s eight-year NBA career.

LaVine averaged 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 47.6% shooting overall and 38.9% on 3-pointers in 67 games last season.
The Bulls had long been confident that they’d retain him with a max contract.

“He has a great support system here with our coaching staff and the front office,” executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in late April. “I hope he’s here for a long time.

“We have a relationship with him. He knows exactly what to expect here. We have a really good relationship with him. The last two years have been the best two years of his career.”

On multiple occasions, Karnisovas had stressed the need for continuity to create further cohesion for a Bulls team with a roster that has had just one season together. Bringing LaVine back was the biggest key to that goal, which the Bulls have now accomplished.

“I hope for continuity,” Karnisovas said. “Because we’re constantly competing against teams that have been together for three, four, five years. Results come, obviously, when you keep the same group longer.”

LaVine underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May after lingering soreness and discomfort in it hampered him in the latter half of this past season. That was the same knee in which he tore his ACL in 2017. An MRI during the season revealed LaVine had no structural damage in the knee, the Bulls previously said.

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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