The Chicago Bulls season is on life support. They’re currently 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, putting them on the fringe of the play-in tournament and in jeopardy of not qualifying for the 2nd time in three seasons. After Lonzo Ball’s second knee surgery, the Bulls’ core of DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and Zach LaVine has not been unable to consistently win. This was not the plan. After signing a $215 million-dollar max extension in the offseason, LaVine was expected to ascend and form one of the top all-around guard-wing duos in the league with DeRozan. Instead, LaVine got off to a slow start that eventually prompted a December locker room confrontation in which, “several teammates expressed frustration” with LaVine” during what was described as a “strong exchange.”
To be fair, LaVine underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee in May. Playing at a level slightly below his All-Star status wouldn’t be totally surprising to begin the season. The larger concern is the locker room confrontation. Maybe LaVine’s Bulls’ teammates didn’t think that he was putting in the effort worthy of the max deal that pays him more than $43 million per year over the next five seasons.
DeRozan spun the locker room exchange as a good thing, but the bottom line is that he and LaVine, the supposed team leaders and alpha dogs on the roster, are not seeing eye to eye. The season has turned into a massive disappointment following sky-high expectations after LaVine signed his max deal this summer. DeRozan is six years older than LaVine, in theory, management would stick with the younger, All-Star caliber player rather than the aging veteran on the wrong side of thirty. But if LaVine is alienating the locker room with his attitude or play, the Bulls would have to consider the right offer.
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Irving Trade Request Opens Door
NBA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, 8x NBA All-Star. Kyrie Irving’s resume speaks for itself. He’s averaging 27-5-5 (points, rebounds, assists) per game and shooting nearly 40% from 3pt. At 30 years old, Irving is still one of the top point guards in the league.
The Chicago Bulls are in desperate need of help at point guard. A trade for Irving almost makes too much sense. So tell me why the Bulls’ shouldn’t trade for Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving?
For everything that Kyrie Irving does on the basketball court, he’s turned into a PR nightmare and royal pain off the court. Let’s flashback, to after hitting the game-winning 3 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers their first and only NBA Championship, instead of running it back with the greatest player of the generation, LeBron James, Irving instead requested a trade – citing his desire to be the star player on his next team.
What?! Really? Instead of running it back after nailing the game-winning 3 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals – you request a trade? That was Irving’s first red flag – but it only got worse – and weird from there.
After forcing a trade to the Boston Celtics — Irving looked like he had found his franchise, even telling Celtics’ fans that he was resigning:
News flash: Irving didn’t resign with the Celtics. Instead, he took his talents to Brooklyn, teaming with Kevin Durant to form a super-duo (didn’t he want to be the star player?). Then COVID hit and we all know what happened next: Irving refused to get the vaccine and was unable to play in cities with indoor vaccine mandates. Despite the Nets trading for James Harden, the trio was never able to get in sync and was bounced by Milwaukee in a hard-fought playoff series. After another playoff exit last year, this time courtesy of a first-round sweep at the hand of Irving’s former team, the Boston Celtics, many wondered if the best days were behind the Brooklyn super team.
Fast forward to this season, after Harden signed with the Sixers in the offseason, it was again Irving and Durant’s team. But instead of sticking to basketball, Irving found his way into the headlines once again, suspended for five games for sharing a link to an antisemitic movie on his social media account.
This season hasn’t turned out the way that Bulls fans and management have hoped. Flipping a 27-year-old Zach LaVine, despite questions about his overall tenacity and basketball IQ, for a soon-to-be-31-year old Irving with a checkered past is an extremely difficult decision to make. Additionally, LaVine makes about $9 million more than LaVine, which would require another player to be included in the deal.
It’s unclear if the trade is even on the table. Pairing Irving with DeRozan, Vucevic, Alex Caruso, and Patrick Williams is certainly intriguing. The Bulls would also have to re-sign Irving (he’s a free agent at season’s end) and in theory, re-sign Vucevic to a multi-year deal likely in the $30 million per season range to keep them together.
There’s no denying Irving’s talent. If he feels like he is the star player, with DeRozan playing the Robin-to-Batman role, the Bulls could be much better for it.
It’s a difficult decision and one that will impact the Bulls for years to come.