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Zach LaVine newly motivated after landing big contract

Zach LaVine

The Sacramento Kings made a strong push for Chicago Bulls restricted free agent Zach LaVine — one that earned him an extra $5 million per year as the latter matched his offer sheet last week, signing him to a four-year, $80 million deal.

Yet the wave of comments regarding his injury risk and his actual worth coming off a torn ACL has been enormous, as LaVine faces plenty of criticism as the inks dries on his matched offer sheet from the Bulls, who traded for him last offseason.

“I wanted to just deal with Chicago,” LaVine told reporters Sunday night, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “I never wanted to get to a point of having [an offer sheet]. Regardless of whatever happened, I’m putting that behind us. I’m happy as hell that I’m going to be able to play for the team I wanted to play for.

“A lot of stuff with me, emotions or whatever it is, it can be taken out of context. I want to let that be known — I never had any bad will toward Chicago.  You guys are the first team to show interest in me from Minnesota, and I’m extremely happy to be back.”

The criticism is one he will likely face throughout the entire season, but one he can live with, knowing the circumstances around it all.

“I know what I’m worth,” LaVine said. “I put a lot of hard work into this. People are going to put their own opinion on things … or they try to judge you. But I came back last year.

“I knew what my market was even in a dropped market. I knew what I was going to be around. I’m glad that we finally got to come to a conclusion and both sides are happy with that.”

LaVine’s $80 million bill doesn’t come cheap, but the injury safeguard in his contract will protect the Bulls in case it proves to be detrimental to their long-term plans. Yet, let’s not forget, LaVine is only 23 years old, and he was at the cusp of becoming a 20-point scorer only a little over a year ago — a potential he could easily reach again.

The speculation has been all over before the Bulls agreed to match his offer sheet, but that is now another bullet in the chamber for a young talent that could empty the clip this season and put those doubts to rest.

“Outside of that, not a lot messes with me,” LaVine said. “It puts motivation in my head.”