Struggling Bulls won't find it easy to win a LaVine trade

Anyone who's watched the Bulls this season would agree it's time for some changes.

Conveniently enough, rumors dropped Tuesday about Zach LaVine being open to leaving Chicago. LaVine and his agent Rich Paul were also seen sitting together at United Center's college doubleheader.

Against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, LaVine and the Bulls muddled through a lackluster performance most of the night. But after trailing by as many as 19 points, they tied the game with 7.5 seconds left when LaVine knocked down his second straight 3-pointer.

The Magic came back and hit the game-winner, though, as 6-foot-10 Paolo Banchero backed Alex Caruso into the lane and his 6-foot turnaround rolled in with 1.4 seconds on the clock.

Inside the locker room, LaVine wore a designer Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap, with the words "game changer" written on the side.

"I've had this (type of) news for three years," LaVine said. "It's nothing new to me. This is a regular Wednesday."

The Bulls (4-8) played without DeMar DeRozan, who missed the game for personal reasons. Caruso returned after a two-game absence due to a left toe sprain.

The Bulls faced a huge uphill climb after hitting just 5 of 21 shots in the second quarter and getting outscored 29-12. LaVine led the Bulls with 19 points, hitting 6 of 16 shots from the field; while Nikola Vucevic added 17.

LaVine addressed the trade rumor at Wednesday's shootaround, without offering a denial.

"I've been in trade talks for a long time, so I understand the situation," he said. "Once news is broken, it's a big thing. It's not like it's the first or the last time it's going to happen with my name. As of right now, I'm excited to still put this jersey on, go out here and play, try to get this win tonight."

Typically in the NBA, trade talks heat up in January or February, so don't expect any swift action on the LaVine front. Whether a deal happens now, later or never, the challenge for the Bulls is getting some sort of positive return.

It would be relatively easy for the Bulls to unload LaVine's hefty contract for some expiring deals. They could send LaVine to Philadelphia for Tobias Harris straight up, as an example. Keep in mind, though, the 76ers don't have any first-round picks to trade for the next four years.

Maybe Miami would give up Tyler Herro to get LaVine, but the Heat would have to add salaries to make it work. The Lakers in a deal centered around D'Angelo Russell could work, in theory.

Maybe the Bulls should propose a swap of unhappy underachievers and try to get Zion Williamson from New Orleans. The Pelicans may be getting close to the point where they're ready to move on from the former first overall pick but might not be excited about adding LaVine. The often-injured Williamson would also be a huge gamble, since he's just beginning a five-year, $197 million deal.

In other words it will probably be difficult for the Bulls to find a beneficial LaVine trade, and Arturas Karnisovas wouldn't be doing his job if he doesn't wait for a winning option.

Long before LaVine signed the five-year, $215 million extension in 2022, it seemed likely the Bulls would regret making the offer. That's simply because LaVine doesn't make enough winning plays to justify being a maximum-contract player. When he got the new contract, he'd never received a single vote for MVP, All-NBA or the All-Defensive team.

The problems with his game were on display Wednesday, when LaVine repeatedly drove to the basket, missed shots but didn't create enough contact to draw a foul call.

Before the game coach Billy Donovan said he's not concerned about a potentially disgruntled star rubbing off on anyone else in the locker room.

"I spent quite a bit of time with Zach this summer," Donovan said. "I went out two different times to LA and visited with him. He's great. He's always been very welcoming when I've come out there. We've always had really, really good conversations. He's always responsive to text messages and phone calls and things like that."

The same two teams play again Friday at United Center, but on the red court since it's part of the In-Season Tournament.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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