Bulls Insider

How LaVine's focus on winning has flipped narrative


Zach LaVine has watched DeMar DeRozan take last-second shots, score more fourth-quarter points than him and receive a significant portion of credit for the Chicago Bulls’ surprising ascent to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

And yet there LaVine was, taking over the intercom system of the Bulls’ charter flight to San Antonio to announce that DeRozan had been named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter.

LaVine, who almost certainly will be announced as a coach’s reserve on Thursday, has eerily similar statistics to those of his more celebrated and accomplished teammate.

That he took the lead in celebrating DeRozan’s individual honor at a time his own would have to wait speaks volumes about who LaVine is, even if it flies in the face of a tired narrative that finally — and rightfully — is fading.

“He should get the credit. I’m not feeling any way towards that. I think by the way that I’ve shown: I just want to win,” LaVine said as he walked towards the team bus late Friday night in San Antonio. “That was the narrative about me for so long and people didn’t really know me or give me a fair shake. They just threw their opinion out on me.

“I’m the ultimate team guy, I feel like. I’m so happy for my teammates and their success because at the end of the day, I’m going to be Zach LaVine.”

Don’t get it twisted, as LaVine himself said back on Bulls media day about DeRozan still being in his prime and not just serving as a veteran leader: Just because DeRozan has arrived, LaVine’s confidence hasn’t gone away.

In fact, if anything, following his first All-Star appearance last season, an Olympic gold medal last offseason and the Bulls’ team success, LaVine is even more emboldened.

“We’re having a great season,” LaVine said near the team bus. “I’ve done my job to put my name up there for (All-Star) consideration. I think the coaches are going to do the right thing. The players obviously showed me their appreciation. That’s enough for me.

“We’re going to enjoy the weekend. But as fun as that will be, that’s not what this season is about.”

It’s about winning and LaVine getting his first taste of playoff basketball in his eighth season.

And it’s funny how the storyline has changed. Last season, debate existed over whether or not LaVine even deserved an All-Star reserve spot because he produced his loud statistics for a losing team.

Now, Trae Young will start alongside DeRozan despite the Hawks owning a 23-25 record.

This isn’t to say Young isn’t an All-Star.

“Trae should definitely be an All-Star,” LaVine said.

It’s more to say LaVine landing 73 player votes to 46 for Young speaks volumes about LaVine’s rising standing amongst his peers.

Among Eastern Conference backcourt candidates, DeRozan captured the fan, media and player vote. Young finished second in fan and media voting and third in player voting. LaVine finished third in fan and media voting and second in player voting.

“I’m very happy for DeMar. I’m happy for Trae. Obviously, Trae is very deserving. I felt I was just as deserving,” LaVine said at his postgame press conference Friday night. “Every year, there’s going to be somebody in and out. I do wish the criteria stayed the same each year. Last year I had a really good year where I had really good stats, but we were on a losing team. The narrative wasn’t the same.”

Through 44 games, DeRozan is averaging 26.5 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists in 34.9 minutes. He’s shooting 49.9 percent, including 33.8 percent on 1.8 3-pointers per game, and connecting on 85.8 percent of his 7.8 free-throw attempts per game. His true shooting percentage is 58.5 percent.

Through 41 games, LaVine is averaging 25 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 34.1 minutes. He’s shooting 48.7 percent, including 39.7 percent on 7.2 3-pointers per game, and connecting on 87.2 percent of his 4.8 free-throw attempts per game. His true shooting percentage is 60.8 percent.

“I’m going to keep my head down and keep working,” LaVine said at his postgame press conference. “I think I’m going to be an All-Star either way.”

And then LaVine paused.

“But uh, back to this,” he said, picking up and looking at a box score. “Obviously, this isn’t a good feeling to come out to San Antonio and give up 130 points.”

LaVine just wants to win.

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