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Will Zach LaVine re-sign with Chicago Bulls?

Will Zach LaVine remain in Chicago next season? After weeks of wondering and worrying, Bulls fans are finally close to receiving an answer as NBA free agency officially opens Thursday evening.

Teams may begin negotiating with players and their agents at 5 pm CDT, though free agents cannot sign new deals until July 7.

This is LaVine’s first offseason as an unrestricted free agent, which allows the two-time All-Star shooting guard to pursue a deal with any team. It’s also his first opportunity to seek a five-year maximum contract from the Bulls, which could top out at $215 million according to an ESPN report of a 10% salary-cap increase for next season.

LaVine declined during his exit interview with media in April to make a hard commitment to re-signing with the Bulls, deferring all questions about his future to his agent. But he made it clear at the end of the season that he knows his worth — and won’t compromise to receive it.

“You get paid what you’re valued at and I see myself as a top guy in this league,” Lavine said after the Bulls were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round of the playoffs.

His teammates echoed the sentiment, calling for LaVine to receive a maximum contract from the Bulls.

“Max player, max talent, max everything,” DeMar DeRozan said after the Game 5 loss to the Bucks. “He’s one of those players in this league that you don’t see too often. I tell him all the time how envious I am of the things he’s able to do. He deserves everything that’s coming to him.”

The front office hasn’t publicly balked at these statements, and re-signing LaVine remains the clear offseason priority. The Bulls have a solid upper hand in their pursuit — they can offer LaVine more money than other team, and he openly enjoyed playing alongside DeRozan and other new teammates last season.

After the NBA draft last week, general manager Marc Eversley said the Bulls have “every intention” to keep LaVine in Chicago, and executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas said Monday that the front office feels “confident” in its ability to reach a deal.

June 28: Center Tony Bradley exercised his $2 million player option for the 2022-23 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Free agents: Zach LaVine (unrestricted), Derrick Jones Jr. (unrestricted), Tristan Thompson (unrestricted), Troy Brown Jr. (restricted), Matt Thomas (restricted), Tyler Cook (restricted, two-way), Malcolm Hill ( restricted, two-way)

Under contract: Nikola Vučević (expires 2023), Coby White (2023), Javonte Green (2023), Ayo Dosunmu (2023), Tony Bradley (2023), DeMar DeRozan (2024), Patrick Williams (2024), Marko Simonović (2024 ), Lonzo Ball (2025), Alex Caruso (2025)

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Eligible for extension: Vučević, White.

June 30: Free-agency negotiations open at 5 pm CDT

July 1: Signing moratorium begins, but teams can sign players to rookie, minimum and two-way contracts

July 7: Signing moratorium ends and teams can begin making trades and signing players

July 7-17: NBA Summer League, Las Vegas

July 13: Last day to withdraw qualifying offers to free agents

Aug 31: Last day to waive players

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