Is a LaVine trade to the Lakers inevitable?
why this latest injury non-setback-setback is curious
Breaking after the Bulls opposite-of-thrilling victory over the hapless Hornets Wednesday night (I gave up soon after Stephen Noh did) was news that Zach LaVine will be out for 3-4 weeks with this foot inflammation that was originally intended only to be a single week absence.
The Bulls didn’t disclose any particular injury in their press release. The most recent update was a couple days ago from Billy Donovan and it was a positive one.
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LaVine himself went on record to reporters the day after to try and clarify. He was indeed feeling better a couple days ago, but in the ramp-up to play on Wednesday night “it got more sore to where it didn’t make sense to try to play on it continuously”, and the Bulls advised to rest (not active rest like before) a few weeks. LaVine also received a PRP injection in the area.
He offered a lot of platitudes that may have convinced some but actions on the court, and a lack of action getting back on the court in this case, say otherwise.
LaVine said it himself: historically in his career he’s tried to play through injury. He’s not now. That lack of commitment to the Bulls is already priced in to his lukewarm trade market. What wouldn’t be is if he’s truly damaged goods like a weeks-long foot ailment would indicate.
I don’t think this is all a ruse. Zach is hurt. But I do (based on no actual evidence, admittedly) believe he could play if he and the Bulls wanted him to play. There is enough plausible deniability this way to where LaVine saves face and the Bulls don’t get punished by the league.
But why 3-4 more weeks? Why not say another week and we’ll see…or that he’s out indefinitely? Klutch Sports PR flak Shams Charania said the quiet part out loud on a gambling show: that timeframe puts a LaVine return (or at least re-assessment) around January 15th. Shams called this “ironic”, but it’s laughably very far from that.
Most of the league is eligible to be dealt on December 15. It’s only those who re-signed under certain circumstances where that restriction is pushed out a month. Here’s the list, there’s only 18 players in the whole league, and it’s clear there are only two names that would impact a LaVine trade: Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura of the Lakers. There is no holdup to trade LaVine anywhere else.
It’s an open secret (or even more open than that) that LaVine would like to be on the Lakers, where Kamp Klutch has a very close relationship and the on-roster fit is actually pretty tidy for a max-in-salary-only player like LaVine.
Technically, they can’t dictate where LaVine is traded. He does not have a no-trade clause. He’s not even hitting free agency soon.
But LaVine and his reps can apply pressure in this way to tell other teams you may be getting a less-than-fully-invested player, and maybe sometimes that kind of player doesn’t feel the need to rush back into action.
The Bulls are unintentionally feeding in to this too, by the team playing (relatively) well in Zach’s absence. I believe Zach when he says he’s happy for his teammates that they’re winning, but he may also be happy that it means the Bulls won’t rush into a trade to the non-Lakers.
I don’t think this saga hurts LaVine’s trade value, because it was pretty clearly fairly low already. An actual major foot injury would lower it, but I’m self assured in thinking that this isn’t that. But seeing listless performance individually, and then in his absence the team performing much less listless (list-full?) and winning more…that’s what Zach would call a “narrative”.
But I also believe the Lakers recognize that once past all this discomfort Zach would do much better with them. I’m not sure other teams will convince themselves of the same, at least not to the point where they will be willing to offer more in a trade.
Which is bad news, because I find this theoretical trade package from the Lakers kind of crappy. There’s multiple years remaining in the contracts of Hachimura, Russell, and Vincent, and their first available first round pick isn’t until Patrick Williams is nearing 30 years old. We probably should start really scouting Reaves, though I’m not even confident he will be part of the deal. Why would the Lakers do more than the minimum if there’s no other bidders?
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