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Report: Zach LaVine ‘privately has questioned’ role with Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 31: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at United Center on December 31, 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)

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The Bulls paid Zach LaVine to be their No. 1, giving him a five-year, $215.2 million max contract over the summer. Chicago is not trading him.

But what is his role on the Bulls? Even LaVine “privately has questioned” his role and standing in the franchise, NBC Sports Bulls insider K.C. Johnson said on Monday’s Bulls Talk podcast.

“I sourced that out. The Athletic started it, and then I did some checking. Zach’s a professional, he’s a team player, but he’s got a lot of confidence in himself.... This is not like him being jealous of [DeRozan]. He knows how good DeMar DeRozan is.”

LaVine answered the question about who takes the final shot this way to Johnson:

“It’s not difficult. I mean, look, you understand what he’s done in his career. He’s made a lot of those shots. I’ve also made a lot of those shots. So you live with the decision,” an upbeat LaVine said. “I ride or die with him every time he takes a shot like that because I’ve seen him make more than he missed.”

DeRozan has been the go-to option in crunch time, and questions about chemistry and fit between DeRozan and LaVine are not new. The questions about the Bulls are bigger than that, however, starting with where Nikola Vucevic fits in this mix. The bottom line is that the Bulls sit at 16-21, outside even the play-in in the East right now.

Is it time for a trade? Don’t bet on a big one at the trade deadline, but NBC Sports Chicago’s Johnson says it’s time to think about it come the offseason.

The Bulls’ Big Three may not be a failure. But it does have a ceiling, particularly with the future of Lonzo Ball unknown. Ball seemed to be the straw the stirred the drink to unlock the trio’s fullest potential.

Trading DeRozan could help the Bulls do a reset on the fly, much like the Utah Jazz did when it parted ways with franchise stalwarts Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The Jazz remain competitive this season, with a stockpile of draft assets from both deals and a potential All-Star in Lauri Markkanen acquired in the Mitchell transaction.

Trading DeRozan also takes the Bulls away from the decision on whether to extend him or not; he’s extension-eligible this offseason and signed through 2023-24. While DeRozan is still playing at an All-NBA level and possesses the type of game that will seemingly age gracefully, the Bulls can’t tie their future to two players in their 30s like DeRozan and Nikola Vučević.

Whatever LaVine’s role with the Bulls this season — and he’s still averaging 22.7 points per game — he is not going anywhere. He is the cornerstone of whatever is next in Chicago, the question is who will be around him?