Trade deadline dud: Bulls’ Zach LaVine to undergo season-ending surgery

Zach LaVine season is over, as the two-time All-Star has elected to have right foot surgery.

Frank Gunn/AP

Zach LaVine no longer needs to worry about shopping for real estate in the Detroit area.

Actually, with the news the Bulls released Saturday, he need not worry about new real estate anytime soon.

With the trade deadline five days away, LaVine opted to have season-ending surgery on his right foot that will sideline him for the next four to six months, all but killing any trade possibilities the organization might’ve been working on.

No Detroit, no salary dump with Sacramento, no teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles like Klutch Sports, LaVine’s representation, was hoping for.

Nothing.

LaVine isn’t going anywhere, and if the front office doesn’t pivot off its current philosophy in the next five days, the Bulls aren’t either for the foreseeable future.

The Bulls have gotten used to life without LaVine on the court — he had only played in 25 games entering Game 50 against the Kings — but his max contract suffocates any plans executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas had and limits his flexibility.

To put it in perspective, the once-elite backcourt of Lonzo Ball and LaVine that helped catapult the Bulls into first place in the first half of the 2021-22 season is guaranteed to make $65 million next season after having missed a combined 288 games since Jan. 14, 2022.

Even worse, they will go into next season full of uncertainties, especially with Ball, who will be trying to make an unprecedented comeback from a cartilage transplant.

The Bulls will try to get another medical exemption for Ball’s $21 million, but the plan that Karnisovas was working from was trading LaVine — in the next week or the summer — then trying to stay the course by giving DeMar DeRozan an extension and re-signing restricted free agent Patrick Williams.

If LaVine can’t be moved by then — the Bulls’ new reality — then DeRozan and possibly even Alex Caruso need to be traded this week, kicking off a rebuild that Karnisovas hasn’t wanted to revisit. 

“In my conversations with them, there was never, ‘This is our plan, and this is what we’re doing,’ ’’ coach Billy Donovan said of a possible pivot. “I’m 1,000% confident that I will be a part of those conversations and assured, ‘OK, this is what happened, this is what our team looks like going toward next year.’ I just don’t know when those conversations will take place. This just happened. I’m sure Arturas and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] and Jerry and Michael [Reinsdorf] will all be talking about those things.”

Donovan wanted to dispel the idea that LaVine and Klutch opted for surgery rather than have LaVine be traded somewhere he didn’t want to go. While the timeline was fuzzy, especially because the team just gave LaVine another week before another re-evaluation, Donovan said that extension was for LaVine to meet with more specialists. The Bulls’ medical staff was in on those conversations and final decisions, Donovan said.

“Everybody has been in lockstep,” Donovan added. “I think our medical guys were part of the conversations when they talked about it.”

That’s good to know, but now it’s about the remaining players dealing with the unknown.

“Out of my control completely,” Caruso said when asked if he could be on the move now. “We’ve got five more games until the All-Star break where I can mentally relax, so whatever they decide to do is kind of their decision. My job as an employee of this team is to show up and do my duty, which is to go out and play basketball every night, and that’s kind of what I’m focused on.”

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