Bulls News: John Paxson 'Thrilled to Keep' Zach LaVine After Matching Contract

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist

Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine dunks the ball after stealing a pass intended for Orlando Magic's Shelvin Mack during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Chicago. Bulls won 105-101. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls announced Sunday they officially exercised their option to match a four-year, $78 million contract offer sheet given to guard Zach LaVine by the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson released a statement about the decision:

"We were excited last summer when we got a dynamic athlete in Zach LaVine through the trade, and we're excited now that we get to keep him. Zach showed a relentless work ethic in rehabbing his ACL injury to return to the court, and he has a visible passion for the game of basketball. We know that those attributes, along with his honed skills, will make him an impact player in this league for years to come. We're thrilled to keep Zach on this Bulls team moving forward."

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported Chicago's decision to match the Kings' proposal Friday.

Per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell, LaVine said Sunday night:

"I know what I'm worth, man. I put a lot of hard work into this. People [are going] to put their own opinions on things, or everybody on social media, they try to judge you, but I came back last year. I played in 24 games. We had an understanding. I'm just getting back on the court. I'm able to get my rhythm down and things like that. I knew what my market was even in a dry market. I knew what I was going to be around, so I'm glad that we finally got to come to a conclusion and both sides are happy with that."

LaVine, who was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a June 2017 trade, didn't make his Bulls debut until January after completing his rehab from the torn ACL. He averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists across 24 appearances in the season's latter stages.

In March, the 23-year-old UCLA product said he wasn't worried about the contract situation and instead focused on trying to get back to full strength after some standard lingering soreness.

"You have soreness and little pains here and there from the surgery—that's just how it is. You have to deal with that. It gets better and it goes away," he told reporters. "There's still scar tissue getting broken up. There are movements I do that my knee hasn't done in a year. This is part of my rehab, just the advanced stage."

LaVine, a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion, didn't showcase the same level of explosiveness in his return from injury last season. His inability to attack the rim as aggressively is a major reason his two-point shooting percentage dropped from 51.5 percent in 2016-17 to 40.5 percent last season.

By matching Sacramento's offer sheet, the Bulls are betting a healthy summer will allow the Washington native to regain his high-end athleticism.

LaVine will likely start alongside Kris Dunn in the backcourt, but he'll receive competition for minutes from Justin Holiday, Sean Kilpatrick and Cameron Payne in a crowded rotation.

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