Bulls still confident Zach LaVine will re-sign, even with Kevin Durant chaos

Like all 30 NBA teams heading into the start of the free-agent period Thursday, the Bulls had a plan.

Kevin Durant all but set it ablaze.

When the two-time NBA Finals MVP made it known he wanted to be traded out of Brooklyn, expected business quickly fell by the wayside as teams tried to reposition themselves to at least make an offer.

According to a source, the Bulls were a part of those phone calls, despite Durant reportedly having the Heat and Suns among his desired destinations — and despite the reality that the Bulls don’t have the type of high-profile player or quality of draft picks the Nets were looking for in a trade package.

The Bulls still achieved their main objective on Day 1 of free agency, which was to meet with unrestricted free-agent guard Zach LaVine about a maximum contract that would keep him in Chicago for at least the next five years.

Sources said the Bulls remain confident LaVine will agree to a contract of nearly $215 million — the most any team could offer — even as the two-time All-Star waits to hear all offers in the process.

It would be a steep price for the Bulls — but also the price of business for an NBA team still trying to clean up its image and become a perennial contender.

When Arturas Karnisovas took over as executive vice president of basketball operations in 2020, the Bulls had a reputation as an organization where coaches were mistreated. Their hiring of Billy Donovan changed that.

The previous front office also had a rep for lacking the creativity to snag a big-name trade candidate or attract All-Star-caliber talent. The acquisition of Nikola Vucevic from the Magic last March, followed by the last offseason’s sign-and-trades for DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball, started to change that.

But the Bulls also have had a history of not taking care of their own. And in that regard, the pending LaVine signing is bigger than just retaining an elite scorer who has improved in almost every category since becoming a Bull in 2017. The Karnisovas-led front office is effectively showing the players that doing the right thing to improve matters — and will be rewarded.

If LaVine re-signs soon, it doesn’t necessarily change where the Bulls fit in the Eastern Conference power structure. Butit would keep the face of the franchise in a city he has embraced since he arrived in a draft-night deal for Jimmy Butler. And even a max offer alone could help the Bulls’ reputation and lead to a bigger payoff years down the road.

LaVine and core teammates have petitioned for him to stay since the Bulls were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.

“Max player, max talent, max everything,” the veteran DeRozan said of LaVine. “He’s one of those players in this league that you don’t see too often. I tell him all the time how envious I am of the things he’s able to do. He deserves everything that’s coming to him, for sure.”

Beyond talking with LaVine, one other thing the Bulls accomplished Thursday was addressing their rebounding issues. They agreed to a two-year, $6.6 million deal with veteran big man Andre Drummond. The second year of the deal is reportedly a player option.

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