Bulls’ Zach LaVine goals remain the same after max contract


LaVine’s goals remain the same after first max contract appearance on NBC Sports Chicago

To understand the mentality that fueled Zach LaVine’s rise, look no further than his comments the night he earned the first All-Star selection of his NBA career.

“I want to be an NBA champion,” LaVine told reporters that night in February 2021 when asked about future accomplishments in his sights. “As an individual thing, it’s something you want to do. You want to be the MVP of a champion team.

Later, while acknowledging the importance of team success to individual accolades, he added, “I can see myself as a member of the All-NBA team. If I continue to build up my defense and be consistent, I can see myself as an All-Defensive team guy.

He wasn’t kidding. And he hadn’t finished.

The following summer, LaVine took on a lesser, but vital role for a United States basketball team that won a gold medal in Tokyo. The following NBA season, he made his second consecutive All-Star appearance and, playing with a recalcitrant knee for most of the second half, helped lead the Chicago Bulls to their first winning season and their first place in the playoffs since 2017.

The fruits of that labor and the seasons of linear improvement that preceded it culminated in LaVine signing a five-year, $215.2 million max contract with the Bulls this offseason.

“It’s just a compliment for a lot of hard work and showing what kind of player I am,” LaVine told reporters on Monday.

Make no mistake: After years of perceived and objectively underpaid slights for his production – on an offer sheet, the Bulls assorted of the Sacramento Kings in 2018, rather than stretch — the recognition that such a garish payday means something to LaVine.

But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it changes little in his basketball mindset.

“I think it’s just a credit to my hard work. I think I had the same work ethic and goals before the contract, after the contract,” LaVine said when asked what being a ‘max’ player means to him, and if pressure extra comes with.

“There is no additional additional pressure. It’s just who I am, and what goals and things I want to achieve, and how much can we improve as a team.”

Indeed, LaVine is a goal setter, a trait to which he credits much of his success. These haven’t changed either.

“Individually wanting to keep pushing myself to achieve higher and higher things. If they’re not All-NBAs, if they’re not MVPs, from a team perspective, that’s winning a championship. I think there’s nothing above that,” LaVine said. “You’ve heard me say individual things come with winning, and the better we get as a team, and I keep pushing myself to improve as a player, I think those things can add up. “

The Bulls’ front office decision makers have placed great trust in LaVine — both through that monetary commitment and through their open ears for commentary on personnel decisions over the past two seasons.

In those two years, the franchise completely revamped its roster around LaVine, added Nikola Vučević, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan, and returned to playoff action, a longtime goal of the doubles. All Star.

Now the challenge is to keep building, which LaVine and the Bulls are hoping for with continuity from the current core.

“Getting chemistry on the court doesn’t just happen one or two years,” LaVine said. “All good teams, and teams that make deep playoffs every year, have known each other and been together for a while. I think that’s definitely something you can establish and grow.”

From LaVine, expect nothing less than the approach that has gotten him this far – through a torn ACL at 21, traded on his rookie contract and a carousel of coaches, teammates and arid lists around him.

“It’s a journey, and you have to take it all in stride,” he said. “Obviously you can’t control everything with injuries, being traded, whatever. But I could always control my behavior, my work ethic and what I brought to the game.

“I’ve always imagined myself as the player I am and the player I’m going to be, keep striving to be, and what comes with that is being paid at this level. I’m very proud of myself and my family to get there.

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