Bulls' Zach LaVine Has 'Always Been a Big Fan' of Lakers amid Free-Agency Rumors

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 24, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 31: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls shoots a free throw during the game against the LA Clippers on March 31, 2022 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Ahead of hitting free agency this offseason, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine acknowledged his Los Angeles Lakers fandom.

TMZ Sports caught up with LaVine in L.A. this week, and when asked about the Lakers, he responded: "I've always been a big fan."

The comment came after K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago named the Lakers last week as one of the teams linked to LaVine in free agency.

LaVine spent the past five seasons with the Bulls, but with the two sides failing to come to terms on a new contract thus far, all signs point toward the two-time All-Star testing the open market.

While LaVine was born in Washington state and played his high school basketball there, he attended UCLA collegiately and became a huge star in the area.

After a highly successful college career with the Bruins, LaVine was selected 13th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2014 NBA draft.

LaVine showed flashes of brilliance in Minnesota, but it wasn't until he was traded to Chicago as part of the Jimmy Butler deal in June 2017 that he reached his potential as one of the NBA's top offensive guards.

After averaging 23.7 points per game in 2018-19 and then 25.5 points per game the following year, he set new career highs across the board in 2020-21, averaging 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.4 three-pointers made per game.

That yielded LaVine's first career All-Star nod, and he was also part of the United States men's basketball team that won gold at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

LaVine's numbers weren't quite as good this season, but he was an All-Star again with averages of 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.8 three-pointers made per game, plus Chicago made the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

The Lakers are just two years removed from winning a championship, but they are coming off a nightmarish campaign that saw them miss the playoffs with a 33-49 record after both LeBron James and Anthony Davis missing significant time because of injuries.

While the Lakers would undoubtedly love to add a player of LaVine's quality to the core of James and Davis, doing so may be next to impossible due to their salary-cap situation.

LeBron and AD take up a great deal of cap space on their own, plus Russell Westbrook will account for over $47 million if he exercises his player option as expected.

Even if there is legitimate mutual interest between LaVine and the Lakers, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which they can make it work.