Zach LaVine and Team USA bounced back with two resounding victories over Iran and the Czech Republic after losing to France to open Olympic play. In the 119-84 victory against Tomas Satoransky and the Czechs, LaVine had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with five assists to help the Americans advance to the knockout portion of the tournament.
Up next is a battle against Spain in the quarterfinals at 11:40 p.m. CT on Monday night, which is hours after free agency begins. Team USA beat Spain in a Las Vegas friendly, with LaVine going for 13 points and several big highlights in the win. A win over Spain would give Team USA a semifinal matchup against either Australia or Argentina. The Americans lost to Australia in exhibition play and destroyed Argentina.
Ahead of this game against Spain, LaVine opened up once again about his contract situation. With the Bulls about to open free agency, the All-Star expressed a desire to get his “respect” in contract talks.
“I just want my respect. I think that’s the main thing,” LaVine said when asked what he has communicated to the Bulls about the latter possibility. “I outplayed my contract; I’ve been very loyal to Chicago, I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If it’s now, later, it’s something that we gotta work out internally and we’ll go from there.
“We’ll have some conversations going forward. I think free agency’s going to play a big part in that with other players and constructing the roster. But me, AK (Artūras Karnišovas), Marc (Eversley) all talk and we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
The Bulls can renegotiate and extend LaVine’s contract to give him a max deal or close to a max deal, but that would require using a good amount of cap space (about $14 million) to do so. LaVine seems to understand that it could be difficult to pull that off while also improving the roster as much as possible this offseason, and the assumption here is he’ll be okay with putting off an extension as long as the Bulls make meaningful moves and that big-money offer is on the table next offseason.
Chicago is reportedly going hard after Lonzo Ball, with talks of a three-team deal involving the Pelicans and Hornets popping up in the hours ahead of free agency. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst also just threw out a DeMar DeRozan possibility. There are a lot of moving parts here. Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky just had their contracts guaranteed for the upcoming season, and they could be involved in trades. Lauri Markkanen is also a candidate to go elsewhere, as is Al-Farouq Aminu.
If the Bulls are able to make moves while also giving LaVine his money, that would be the best-cast scenario. Buckle up.