Bulls vow to tune out rumors as they try to salvage season originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Welcome to the Chicago Bulls' new reality. With LaVine not denying he's open to being moved, rumors and distractions will be part of the new every day norm. Even if plenty of them aren't on a first-name basis with truth.
And with each future loss or poor performance, questions will come on whether or not LaVine is distracted or committed or if his unresolved situation is hanging over the locker room or causing doubt within it.
"That’s just part of the NBA, man. Trades happen all the time in the NBA. That’s just part of being a professional and being an athlete. It’s something you have to deal with," Torrey Craig said following Thursday's practice at the Advocate Center. "We let the business side focus on that. We just try to win games every night and play to the best of our abilities."
For now, LaVine and his teammates are saying the right things. Craig pointed to the Bulls rallying from 19 points down rather than throwing in the towel to make Wednesday's loss a one-possession game as an example of LaVine and the team remaining committed to winning.
"Zach came out and made some crucial plays down the stretch to give us a chance to win the game. He hit a couple big 3s. He made the right pass to AC (Caruso) in the corner for a shot. He’s a professional," Craig said. "He has been around a long time. He knows this is all part of the NBA and what comes with it."
But what happens if LaVine's situation drags out and the Bulls keep losing? That will test the collective will and professionalism of all parties involved, especially because the divorce between LaVine and the Bulls feels more like a matter of when, not if.
"I don’t know if that’s necessarily the narrative about him not caring for us and not wanting to be here,’’ Caruso said. “The reports are the reports, and that’s kind of the NBA drama rumor mill that goes on every year and seems to follow the best players in the league wherever they go.
“For us it’s more focus on doing our jobs and trying to come out and play. And obviously if we don’t play well, things don’t go well for the organization. So the big thing for us is to focus on how we can be a better team and win games so nothing happens.’’
Trading Caruso would certainly hurt the Bulls' ability to win games. Fresh off his first All-Defense team honor, Caruso has been the Bulls' most impactful player thus far this season.
That's why a reversal of management's stance on Caruso would be a surprise. At last February's trade deadline, the Bulls rebuffed all overtures on Caruso, who is on an extremely team-friendly contract and is held up internally as the type of player who epitomizes the culture the franchise wants to build.
So even if---when?---LaVine is traded, a complete fire sale would be a surprise, although Patrick Williams' disappointing start could impact his future. Remember: This managerial regime inherited a full rebuild and cashed out on it, trading multiple first-round picks to acquire DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
Management's publicly stated goal is to make the playoffs. A fire sale flies in the face of that.
But stay tuned. Like everything else about this suddenly turbulent Bulls season, it's fluid.