Zach LaVine Responds to Criticism of Max Contract amid Bulls Struggles

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2022

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 14: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls drives to the basket against Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks during the second half at United Center on December 14, 2022 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.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Zach LaVine has fallen short of expectations so far this season after signing a five-year, $215 million max deal with the Chicago Bulls, but he doesn't believe there is a correlation.

"It hasn't weighed (on) anything for me. I don't understand how that gets put into context," LaVine said, per Shams Charania and Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. "Just because you sign a deal, it's supposed to be added weight to it? I think there's added weight each time you step on the court if you don't perform or you don't play the right way. But everybody's open to their own opinion."

The Bulls entered Wednesday with a 12-18 record, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference one year after earning the No. 6 seed.

According to Charania and Mayberry, LaVine and the Bulls are "not seeing eye to eye" and there is a feeling of a "disconnect" between the two sides.

Further issues developed during the team's 150-136 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, which featured a "blowup" between players at halftime, per Joe Cowley. Another confrontation happened after a game earlier this season.

There's a certain level of frustration in people trying to figure out what we can do to help right the ship," LaVine told The Athletic. "I think with the players that we have, we try to put it on each other to right the ship. We have those type of guys, those type of mentalities where each of us have been number one options on a team before and then we all come together collectively."

LaVine is averaging 21.7 points per game this season on 44.5 percent shooting from the field, which would both be his lowest marks in five years. The guard averaged 25.8 points per game over the last two seasons while shooting 49.1 percent, earning an All-Star selection each year.

Last season, he ranked No. 32 in the NBA in player efficiency rating. This season, he's 79th in the category.

The 27-year-old still believes in his abilities as the season progresses.

"I've been improving each and every day I've been coming off an injury," he said. "If you're losing, you don't see that."

With Nikola Vučević set to become a free agent next offseason and DeMar DeRozan eligible for an extension, the Bulls could have some tough decisions coming up if things don't turn around quickly.