Bulls Notes: LaVine, Caruso, Defense, White

Bulls writer Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times recently had a discussion with star wing Zach LaVine about potentially becoming a max player this summer. Cowley had previously been skeptical of the team committing so much money to LaVine — his maximum five-year contract in free agency would be a projected $207MM (or $241MM+ if he’s All-NBA, which is certainly possible).

LaVine says he respects Cowley’s opinion, but that doesn’t mean he agrees. He points to his improved defense as one way in which he’ll prove he’s worth the max.

It’s your job to have opinions, and one of my jobs as a professional athlete and a guy that’s extremely competitive is to go out there and try and prove people wrong,” LaVine said. “Am I going to get that right every time? No, but that’s the fun of sports. I get to have chips on my shoulder and bring that extra stuff to the game.

Look, I get it — I do want to improve on everything, and I know that I haven’t had the best narrative for defense. I know people know me as a hard worker, a great guy, someone that goes out there and can obviously score the hell out the ball. But I want to be known as a winner and a complete player. I mean, I’m not putting all this work in just to be a regular guy in the NBA. I think I’m proving that each and every year.”

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • Free agent acquisition Alex Caruso has been a difference-maker for the Bulls, but that doesn’t mean he’s focused on individual defensive honors, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Mayberry notes that Caruso is tied for the league lead in steals per game (2.5) and is second in the league in deflections (4.2). “Carushow” also has stellar advanced stats on defense; he leads the league in Steal Percentage (4.1), is tied for seventh in Defensive Win Shares (0.8), fourth in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (2.8), and 12th in Defensive Rating (101.3), per Basketball-Reference.
  • In the same piece, Mayberry says that Caruso and sign-and-trade acquisition Lonzo Ball have anchored the team’s surprisingly stout defense. Many thought the Bulls would struggle on that end, but they’re currently eighth in the league with a 104.9 defensive rating. Ball is tied with Caruso for seventh in the league in Defensive Win Shares (0.8) while chipping in 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game, all strong stats for a guard.
  • Coby White is trying to find his rhythm after being sidelined for several months after shoulder surgery, Cowley writes in another article for the Sun-Times. White has gone scoreless in his first two games, going 0-for-4 from the field in 21 total minutes. He says his new teammates are happy to have him back on the court. “What’s been nice is all the guys have accepted me, they’ve brought me in. It could be really different. A new team having a great year, a new guy coming into the mix, but they don’t really care about any of that. They just want to see me on the floor again,” White said. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
  • Check out our Bulls team page for the latest notes and rumors from Chicago.
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