Self-reflection isn’t one of Bulls guard Zach LaVine’s weaknesses.
LaVine knows what critics say about his game and is aware enough to know those voices grew louder in the wake of the Bulls matching the Kings’ four-year, $78 million offer sheet during the offseason.
That’s why LaVine went out of his way Monday to reiterate that no one judges his game harder than he does.
‘‘I feel like everyone has their own opinion,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘Everybody is going to be a critic at some point. I think you’ve heard me say it before: I’m my hardest critic, so there’s nothing on the outside that I haven’t told myself of where I want to be at. You want to tell the doubters on the outside, ‘I told you so,’ but it’s mostly coming from a place where I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for.’’
The 6-5 LaVine, who is entering his fifth season, has carried a chip on his shoulder since the offseason started. Whether it was questions about his first year back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee or the money outsiders thought he deserved, LaVine listened to it all.
‘‘There are a lot of things you want to reach and get better at every year, and I put a lot of work into this offseason,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘Even last year with the ACL, I had a lot of hard work going into that summer. I have a lot of things to prove and want to get better at, and, yeah, I feel like it’s just motivation for yourself when you want to accomplish things.’’
LaVine averaged 17.8 points and 22.3 minutes in five preseason games. Even more impressive is that he shot 51.7 percent from the field, including an eye-opening 43.8 percent from three-point range.
‘‘I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I think last year, I was still trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played. I’d play two good games and two bad games. Now that I’m back fully, I think that’s where [the shooting efficiency] should be. I’ve been like that pretty much my first three years of my career before I got hurt, so I think it should equal out like that again.’’
Then again, LaVine always has been able to score. But he thinks the defense he showed during the preseason should be getting more attention.
‘‘I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I had some mistakes, too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, but definitely off the ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’
What matters now is how he puts all of that together starting Thursday in Philadelphia. A lot of eyes will be watching, none more critically than his own.