Bulls address futures of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, continuity

Bulls address futures of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, continuity originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

MIAMI — As coach Billy Donovan pondered the end of the Chicago Bulls season and fielded big-picture questions late Friday night, DeMar DeRozan entered the small room for postgame news conferences.

“It would be nice if he’s back,” Donovan said, lightheartedly.

All season, DeRozan has emphatically stated how much he wants to avoid unrestricted free agency and re-sign with the franchise he has called home the last three seasons. But in the rawness of falling short of the playoffs for the second straight season, DeRozan also emphasized how much he wants to win.

“Pretty sure in the next couple days, couple weeks, my emotions will be all over the place. Sometimes you gotta kind let those emotions come down so you can think logically. I can think all type of negative ways right now that I may not feel next week. I always try not to react off of impulse no matter how I’m feeling. It’s going to be a long summer for me,” DeRozan said. “It’s kind of like crawling up that hill and you get knocked back down. You take that look up that mountain and you say, ‘Damn, I gotta do it all over again. I gotta figure it out.’ It’s going to be a long summer.”

Told that his words sounded as if he’s open to possibly changing his stance, DeRozan was asked if he still wants to re-sign with the Bulls.

“That’s still where I’m at,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I hate losing. I hate missing opportunities. It really hits you after the season when you look up and the last seconds run off. You don’t have another game. The next time I play a game will be my 16th season. You realize the window closes for you personally. I ain’t trying to play 25 years. You just want to have the opportunity to give everything great in you. My stance on wanting to be here is still the same. But I just want to win. Seeing the first round of the playoffs, the second round of the playoffs is frustrating.”

Asked what he’d like to see management do this offseason, DeRozan didn’t hesitate.

“A competitive team. A team that gives us a chance to make a run,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve dealt with a lot. My first year was a team that we planned on being with. But to lose a star point guard in Zo (Lonzo Ball), Zach (LaVIne) getting hurt later that year, we had all the pieces in play. I don’t know if a black cat ran in front of us or we broke a mirror. But giving us a chance to be competitive and not just a team that fights for a play-in game.”

Like Donovan, Coby White wants to see DeRozan return.

“It would mean everything to this organization, to the fans, to this city,” White said. “As much as he’s done for this organization and to this city and my personal growth, that’s my dawg. He should be paid whatever he wants. It would be important for us to have him back. Me personally, I really want him back. Hopefully they can get everything done.”

But management’s continuity plan hasn’t produced postseason results. So can the Bulls really settle to bring the same core back?

“I don’t want to speak for (executive vice president) Arturas Karnisovas,” Donovan said. “I’m giving you my opinion. This is just how I feel. In my conversations with Arturas, the feeling was can we generate and create some continuity with the group? That was the overriding thing. That continuity never happened. We’ve got basically two starters out. I’ve said this from Day One: I think there was enough in that locker room to compete.

“It’s a result-orientated business. We didn’t get the results we ultimately wanted to get as competitive as we were. But I will say this: I really appreciated and respected what they did this year for each other and for the organization.”

Zach LaVine landed in trade rumors again this season and likely will again this offseason. If he does return after season-ending foot surgery, Donovan said he envisions a future with LaVine fitting into winning basketball.

“I would want him to be like I would want anybody else to be on our team—to sacrifice and play hard and compete. I wouldn’t want him to change his game,” Donovan said. “When all that stuff came out about trade, I never got involved in any of that. That was between Zach and the front office and his agency.

“In my conversations with Zach, it’s always been about coming off the injury, having a minute restriction and saying, ‘Hey, listen, I think it’s best you don’t start right now for a couple games so we have you for the end of games we need you.’ Then obviously the frustrating part of the season coming to an end and he’s having surgery and he’s done. It’s always about how he’s contributing and helping the team.

“I appreciate the investment that Zach has made in his relationship with me. And I certainly tried to make an investment as well. So whatever those conversations are in terms of what we need from him, we’ve always been able to talk openly and directly and honestly. We’ve communicated even while he’s been out with the injury.”

White said LaVine stayed engaged with his teammates during this season’s stretch run. LaVine even texted White after his 42-point game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

“He kept in contact with us even though he’s been hurt. Even when all that (trade) stuff came out, he didn’t have control with what the media ran with. He’s been there,” White said. “After the Atlanta game, he texted me. He texted the group after every win, giving us motivation.

“We’re not really focused on that (speculation about LaVine’s future). I know what type of dude he is. I know what type of player he is and how much he cares about winning and how much he cares about the team. Everybody in this locker room knows who he is as a person. He’s been there since he had surgery, giving us motivation. I can’t thank him enough for that.”

Still, the Bulls keep falling short. This high-priced trio of DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vucevic has produced one playoff victory and two seasons outside the playoff picture.

“Some damn luck,” White said, when asked what the Bulls need. “Obviously, injuries come with it. We gotta figure something out. We can’t keep relying on the play-in to get to the playoffs.

“It hurts. The guys in this locker room came in every day and worked their butt off. I care a great deal for everybody in this locker room. We didn’t want it to end this way.”

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