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Bulls' Zach LaVine has focus on winning, not trade rumors

Bulls' Zach LaVine has focus on winning, not trade rumors originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

CLEVELAND --- The right foot feels good. The 4-1 record since his return feels even better.

Monday marked the day that trade restrictions lifted for the majority of the NBA, making the period between now and the Feb. 8 trade deadline open season. But that’s not where Zach LaVine said his focus is.

“We’re winning,” LaVine said following the Chicago Bulls’ morning shootaround at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. “There’s nothing better than that.

“I don’t think about (trades) at all. Unless I get a call from my agent, it’s just another day at the office for me. I’m glad to be out here playing. I’ve been in trade talks for a long time, obviously. I think this year was bigger than years prior. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing new.”

Heading into Monday night’s matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LaVine is averaging 16.8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in 35.6 minutes per game in the five games since he returned. He’s shooting 49.1 percent overall and 37.5 percent on 3-pointers, while posting three straight games with seven or more assists.

“Just looking to make plays for other guys. Trying to get downhill and create,” LaVine said. “If it’s not for myself, I know I can spray it out. Or get out in transition and create early advantages for other guys.

“Just play it the right way. We’re in a good rhythm. Offensively, I didn’t have as much output scoring. But I feel like I impacted the game the right way and we got the wins. I know who I am and what I can do on the court. So we’ll keep going with it.”

LaVine is only averaging 11.4 shots his last five games, including two games with a season-low eight attempts. Coach Billy Donovan has pushed back on questions about LaVine being placed in more catch-and-shoot and off-ball situations, saying the Bulls want and need LaVine to be aggressive.

“With the way we’re playing, it’s random and not as many set calls. Obviously, I still have to look for my shot and get touches. With me being off the ball more, hopefully guys can find me,” LaVine said. “But we keep racking up the wins and I keep doing my job to make sure I’m impacting the game.”

Asked if he would prefer to be on the ball and in more pick-and-roll actions, LaVine flashed the confidence that has led him to two All-Star appearances.

“I’m good in any situation. I feel like, offensively, there isn’t a position or a style that I’m not comfortable in or can’t adapt to. I have that amount of confidence in my game,” LaVine said. “If it’s passing, creating, shooting, on the ball, finishing, I can adjust to any system.”

LaVine’s usage rate is 24.1, down from being over 28 the last two seasons and over 30 the three seasons before that. A more equal-opportunity offense has been the Bulls’ focus since training camp in Nashville, with ball and player movement and reading how to attack closeouts taking priority over set play calls or isolation.

Overall, LaVine is attempting 15.4 shots per game, down from 18 last season and a career-high 20 in 2019-20.

“We’ve just been playing it the same way it’s been for the last two months. Me coming back, it wasn’t anything new,” LaVine said. “Just run the offense the way we’ve been running it and continue to try to get good shots.”

LaVine is encouraged by how his foot, which needed a platelet rich plasma injection, has responded.

“Couple overtime games, back-to-back kicks you in shape pretty quick. I’m tired, sore but I feel good overall and happy to be back on the court,” LaVine said. “And I think I’ve been solid considering the fact I missed 17 games. I feel I found a rhythm pretty quickly and been able to do a lot of things on the court, including defensively.”

Donovan has cited LaVine’s defensive engagement on multiple occasions during this five-game stretch.

Counting Monday, 10 games remain before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. Has LaVine given any thought to remaining with the Bulls past the deadline?

“As long as I have a Bulls jersey on, I have no inclination of looking into the future of if I’ll be here,” he said. “We play Cleveland (Monday). That’s where my focus is.”

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