DALLAS — It’s all well and good that Zach LaVine is the latest Bull to be churning in the rumor mill.
Leading up to the Bulls’ 114-105 loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday, there were several reports the last few days that the 76ers have LaVine on their radar as a trade target.
One problem: This two-way dance can’t happen without a willing partner.
According to a source close to the situation, the Bulls have no intention of trading LaVine anytime soon, and even if that changes — a big if — it’s unlikely that the 76ers fit the profile of what the Bulls would be looking for in return.
But this is the space the Bulls and coach Billy Donovan will have to work in this season, courtesy of the front office’s decision to bring the core of the roster back, despite two-plus years of underachieving.
LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic have each said that the feeling in the locker room was that at least one of them would go if this season wasn’t a promising one by February.
Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was asked last month about the lifespan of this core, but he would only take the optimistic route.
Donovan said Karnisovas has told him nothing different.
“They’ve never once said to me, ‘Hey, this group has until the trade deadline, this group has until December.’ That’s never been talked about,’’ Donovan said.
“Everything that’s been talked about, at least in my conversations with [Karnisovas], has been about getting the most out of the team. . . . I have not sensed anything from them where this is in the way, and guys are like, ‘I’m not going to be here, why should I put forth the effort?’
“I don’t think the front office would come and talk to me about something that would be speculative. So my focus is day-to-day, game-to-game.’’
That was apparent against the Mavericks. Donovan’s game plan to stop all-world scorer Luka Doncic was obvious early.
Doncic came into the showdown averaging just under 40 points, and with Kyrie Irving sitting out, it was all about Bulls defenders making life as difficult as they could for Doncic.
That meant double-teaming and blitzing him whenever he had the ball, the aim being that anyone but Doncic had to beat the Bulls.
The Bulls held Doncic to eight points and 2-for-9 shooting in the first half and forced him into three turnovers.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trade Rumor — LaVine — went 5-for-6 from three-point range in the first half, scoring 17 of his 22 points and giving the Bulls the lead at halftime.
Project “Stop Luka’’ didn’t end there, either, as the Bulls held him to four points in the third quarter and took an 83-81 lead into the fourth. The Bulls would hold him to 18 points for the game.
Body blows turned into haymakers in the last two minutes, and unfortunately for the Bulls (2-3), it was the Mavericks who were connecting.
With the Mavericks up by three, Jaden Hardy made a three-pointer. Then after a Vucevic miss, Josh Green nailed another three to put the Mavs up by nine with 56 seconds left.
One positive for the Bulls was DeRozan had 16 points to surpass Larry Bird for 38th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
DeRozan also was a trade candidate coming into the season.
“It’s just hard to believe that I’m even at the number I’m at,’’ DeRozan said of the milestone. “To be sitting anywhere past any type of legend [like Bird] is beyond an honor to me.’’