One of the tricky aspects of sports is that, despite the very public nature of the industry, a lot of what happens occurs behind closed doors never reaching the public’s attention much like any other job.
Later reporting revealed a mutiny of sorts with the two-time All-Star drawing teammates’ ire.
To his credit, LaVine responded to the news with arguably his best two-way game of the season with 21 points, seven assists (to two turnovers), and six rebounds finishing as a game-high plus-21. He spoke on the matter with reporters following the Bulls’ 113-103 victory over the short-handed Miami Heat.
LaVine Pushes Back
“I didn’t come up with the report,” LaVine said dismissively. “It didn’t come from my mouth. It didn’t come from DeMar [DeRozan]’s. It didn’t come from [Nikola Vucevic]’s. So I don’t get how these opinions are being put on me like I said something.”
The in-depth report from Charania and Bulls insider Darnell Mayberry detailed increasing frustrations in the Bulls’ locker room and did feature quotes from LaVine.
But the two-time All-Star’s words were more of looking forward than any dissent.
“I think everybody goes through ups and downs, just like every team does,” LaVine told The Athletic on Tuesday when asked about the matter. “Obviously if we’re not winning games, not everybody’s going to be happy. It’s not going to look as good as it was before. It’s all glitter and show when you’re winning games.”
A later report from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times revealed a pair of “blowups” between the team and LaVine with the guard’s defense being the source of the ire. That report was confirmed by K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
“If I had something to say about the team, it would come from my mouth,” LaVine said. “I feel good about the team. “Obviously, we’re frustrated because we’ve lost some games.”
LaVine and the team seemed to appreciate whatever happened, at least in light of the win.
His performance was one thing. But he also handled the matter as nonchalantly as one can be considering all that came out in the report.
Perhaps this can all pay off for the Bulls in the long run. Head coach Billy Donovan has spoken of the team needing to build callouses and said they needed to find a higher level of competitiveness.
Donovan called it “healthy”.
“It’d be a problem if we didn’t have any type of aggressive confrontation someway,” said DeRozan. “It ain’t like nobody throwing blows or throwing chairs or anything like that.”
Building a Bond
With reports of an on-court disconnect, though, it is fair to wonder if the issue is that simple for the Bulls Big Three, specifically DeRozan and LaVine.
LaVine downplayed the chemistry issues that we heard rumblings of this past summer.
“I think all three of us are unselfish and all three of us will make the right play and all three of us will do what it takes. But it’s not only the simple pass. It’s doing all the rest to help each other. Not only the three of us but everybody else. And I think it has to start with us. We have to set the example.”
So, how do the Bulls make sure Tuesday’s performance translates to the rest of the season and, they hope, into the playoffs?
“We’re going to get our own regardless,” LaVine said. “But is it going to be in a way that the team’s going to play well? Or is it just going to be us, we each get our points, and then whatever? It’s got to be in a way that works well for the team.”