Zach LaVine Sounds off on Bulls Slander

Getty Zach LaVine

Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine is in the midst of a landmark year that could land the 25-year-old his first All-Star appearance.

LaVine has posted career highs in points per game (27.4, 5th in NBA), assists per game (5.3), rebounds per game (4.8) along with career-best shooting percentages from three-point range (38.7%), on free throws (86.2%) and overall (49.8%).

But beyond the numbers, LaVine is learning to win — something that’s evaded the seventh-year player who has never gone to the playoffs in his career. He’s familiar with the slander on his name as an “empty-calorie scorer” and sees it changing along with the Bulls’ perception in the league.

“It’s not just going to be given to you,” LaVine said. “Nothing has really ever been given, so I’m going to continue to go out there and show it, and the more the wins pile up and I do my part, it will be recognized. But it’s a self-decision of me trying to be the best version of Zach LaVine that I can be.”

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LaVine Finding the Right Time to Right the Hot Hand

LaVine showed his willingness to win in a strong 117-101 victory over the Dallas Mavericks last Sunday. When his shot wasn’t following, he transitioned into a facilitator role and finished the game with a 10-point, 10-assist double-double — his first of the season.

LaVine followed up his double-double with 33 points, shooting 11-for-16, and seven assists in a 125-120 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday. The Bulls maintained a lead throughout the game and when the Rockets made a run, LaVine answered the call, scoring 14 points in the third quarter.

Going down the final stretch, LaVine sank two 3-pointers and dished three of his seven assists, including to Lauri Markkanen who hit a clutch three with 46.9 seconds remaining.

“We got a lot of firepower,” LaVine said. “I think we’re all starting to learn to move the ball a little bit. I think I’ve done a really good job this year picking my spots, understanding when to shoot and when to pass. I think other guys have started to do that as well. So it’s been fun.”

Billy Donovan Getting the Most out of LaVine

While coach Billy Donovan has drastically transformed the Bulls offense, defensively the team still needs to make strides if they hope to continue to build upon their reputation as the 26th-ranked team in the league.

LaVine has all the physical tools and is becoming one of the league’s top shooters, but his defense has left plenty to be inspired off the ball.

Over the past five games, LaVine has stepped up his focus and motor on defense, in part to Donovan, who is the sixth coach LaVine has had in his career.

“He challenges you and he puts a big deal of, I don’t want to say pressure, but he makes you step up to the plate,” LaVine said of Donovan. “For me personally, I like that.”

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