While LaVine rests foot injury, Bulls need to be patient with trade talk

The Bulls announced Friday morning Zach LaVine will be sidelined for a week with right foot soreness.

Naturally, this could lead someone to wonder, "Has LaVine played his last game for the Bulls?" There was a report of trade interest a couple weeks ago, and LaVine's play of late suggests he'd rather be somewhere else. But maybe the injury was the issue.

The guess here is no, LaVine has not played his last game for the Bulls. As mentioned before, it's going to be really tough for the Bulls to make a winning trade here. If LaVine does want a new home, the best way to make it happen is to lead the Bulls to some victories.

The Bulls snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday without LaVine or DeMar DeRozan (ankle sprain), pulling a massive upset of Milwaukee in overtime. The Bulls were aggressive, competitive and fun to watch against the Bucks, the complete opposite of how they'd played for most of the season.

After the game, multiple Bulls stood up for the team's two leading scorers. Center Nikola Vucevic was asked about the perception team spirit improved because of who was missing.

"That has nothing to do with it," he said. "We just came together, we knew we had to show better spirit because we came back home with our fans behind us, wanted to play well. Our two best players, we need them ... so that has nothing to do with it."

What the Bulls really need is to scrap the star system. They would fare better with all five players on the court being treated as equals, not taking shots only when LaVine or DeRozan choose not to.

One positive trend this season is three younger players - Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams - have improved, some taking bigger steps than others. White has scored 20-plus points in four of the last six games. Alex Caruso got the rare opportunity to take a late-game shot and buried a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

Williams wasn't great, but he hit a couple of pullup jumpers in the lane, the long-lost go-to move that looked promising during his rookie season. Williams and Dosunmu were comfortable pushing the pace when the ball was in their hands.

"For us to be a really good team, we need those guys (LaVine and DeRozan) to play well," Williams said. "We need them to be aggressive.

"I think we have everything we need. This group, we don't have to look anywhere else for a solution to our problems. I think it's all inside our locker room, inside our coaching staff."

With DeRozan, it's more a case of starting to show his age. Now 34, he probably won't be the player he was two seasons ago. More assists and fewer isos would be appropriate.

When it comes to a LaVine trade, Arturas Karnisovas is probably willing to make a meh deal, but he needs a trade partner with some motivation and there may not be one right now.

In theory LaVine could be a nice fit with the Lakers or Philadelphia. In an ideal Bulls world they'd swap him for another grumpy star, but guys like Zion Williamson or Julius Randle seem to be doing fine where they're at. The Bulls will see Williamson at United Center on Saturday, but it is the second leg of back-to-back games for New Orleans, so no guarantees.

The Lakers might make sense for LaVine, since he could be a third scoring threat as LeBron James tries to make one more playoff run, and a future partner for Anthony Davis.

For a LaVine trade to work with the Lakers salary-wise, it needs to include two of these three players: D'Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura or Austin Reeves, and possibly other pieces. The Bulls might ask for the expiring contract of Taurean Prince, while the Lakers might prefer the longer deal of Gabe Vincent.

The Lakers might say, 'We'll only take LaVine if you include Caruso." As long as there's no desire to do another full rebuild, the Bulls would like to see if they can reunite Caruso and Lonzo Ball next year, after that combo worked so well in 2021-22.

There's a reason most NBA trades happen closer to the deadline in February, when there's more urgency. For a trade to happen, the Bulls need a team to view LaVine as a solution, not a problem.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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