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Sports

Zach LaVine says he’s coming back to the Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO (AP) — Zach LaVine is staying with the Chicago Bulls.

The two-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist said Friday he has agreed to a new deal with the Bulls. LaVine will be signing a five-year max contract worth about $215 million, according to a person with direct knowledge of the terms who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the pact cannot be signed until next week by league rule.

And with that, another top free agent came off the market — settling the biggest roster issue hanging over the Bulls this summer.

The Athletic first reported the agreement between the Bulls and LaVine.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas had been consistent in saying the team hoped to re-sign LaVine rather than lose him as an unrestricted free agent. He wanted to keep intact a core that helped Chicago reach the playoffs for the first time in five years.

LaVine, meanwhile, had said he planned to explore the market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career after five years in Chicago. If he looked around, he didn’t look for very long — LaVine announced his decision about 18 hours after the league’s free-agent negotiation window for this season started.

There are many benefits to LaVine staying, including the obvious financial edge. Chicago had the ability to give LaVine $56 million more than any other team could offer him this summer.

LaVine averaged 24.4 points this past season in the final season of a four-year, $78 million deal. The high-flying guard made the playoffs for the first time in his eighth year as a pro, with the Bulls losing in the first round to Milwaukee in five games.

But it was a year of clear progress for Chicago, which won 46 games with LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic leading the way. The Bulls enjoyed their best record in seven years and now have clear momentum heading into this coming season.

The past season wasn’t exactly easy for LaVine. He dealt with a thumb injury early in Chicago’s season, then was in and out of the lineup the final few months because of a left knee injury. The knee needed treatment often, and eventually required arthroscopic surgery in May.

All that seemed forgotten Friday. LaVine’s wife posted a photo of him on Instagram shortly after the deal was struck — the $215 million man enjoying a celebratory cigar.

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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