NBA landscape to change as teams Chase the Victor Wembanyama dream

Bulls guard Zach LaVine didn’t have a chance to meet NBA prospect Victor Wembanyama last week in Paris.

But he definitely took notice of him sitting courtside during the Bulls’ game Thursday against the Pistons at Accor Arena.

Then again, how could LaVine miss him?

”I had to look up there,” LaVine said Sunday, pretending to look up to the sky in reference to Wembanyama’s height.

Asked whether he has seen highlights of what Wembanyama brings to the court, LaVine responded: ”Oh, yeah, we all have. He’s 7-foot-5, can shoot the ball, can handle the ball. He’s a freak.”

Wembanyama actually measures 7-2, but LaVine’s point is well-taken. He is an organizational game-changer, a generational Talent who can turn a cellar-dweller into a potential Championship contender — and quickly.

Wembanyama also happens to be the reason the NBA landscape is about to start changing in the coming weeks.

With the trade deadline approaching Feb. 9, this is the time of the season when teams start showing their hands. Are they in on tanking for a shot at Wembanyama? Are they looking to make a blockbuster deal to make a run? Or might they simply stand pat, perhaps with a tweak or two?

”Each year it’s something different, and I think we’ve seen over the last couple of years it can change to see which teams are going all in [and] who is really shallowing out,” LaVine said. ”I have no guesses on what’s going to happen. One way or the other, it can get interesting if it starts moving.”

Teammate DeMar DeRozan agreed.

”Everybody else in the league is going to do what they feel is best for them,” DeRozan said of the next few weeks. ”I feel like, for us, we’re right there. We have to take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of us.”

DeRozan said he had no idea what that might mean as far as the deadline is concerned, but he knows what it means for the Bulls on the court.

With their trip to Paris behind them, the Bulls used the last few days to refocus on the business of basketball. They are 21-24 and in the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but they are 10-6 in their last 16 games and are playing some of their best basketball of the season.

That has to continue. The Bulls dug themselves this hole, and now it’s time for them to start climbing out. That starts with a home game Monday against the Hawks, followed by a three-game road trip against the Pacers, Hornets and Magic.

”We see the position in the standings,” LaVine said. ”Every one of these games going forward is important because of the circumstances we’ve put ourselves in, and we’re up for the challenge.”

They had better be because the Bulls are not in the Wembanyama sweepstakes and aren’t expected to pivot in that direction.

In the preseason, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said the goal was for the Bulls to reach at least the second round of the playoffs. That bar has not been lowered.

The NBA landscape might be changing, but there’s a good chance very little will with the Bulls’ roster.

”We had a helluva first half with a lot of ups and downs,” DeRozan said. ”Now it’s time to turn everything we went through into a positive. We’re right there. It’s a great opportunity this week to take it one game at a time and write our own story. That’s all we can worry about.”

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