Bulls guard Zach LaVine vows his lack of focus on defense is behind him

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In good health, guard Zach LaVine is ready to shake his reputation as a poor defender.

More important, he vowed that he’s finally willing to turn that bad rap around.

“We all can play defense; everybody in the NBA can play defense,’’ LaVine said Monday during the Bulls’ media day. “We’re some of the most athletic people in the game. It’s just that determination and that learning curve. It’s us being able to put the work in. These last few weeks, we’ve all been here. We’ve been looking really good.

“I know personally I’ve always been a really good on-the-ball [defender]. I don’t know if you guys can tell me that I’m not good on the ball. I’ve always had a problem off the weak side and stuff like that. That’s the main thing you hammer and you try to focus on.’’

LaVine’s defensive rating (114.8) last season ranked 511th in the league, and his defensive win-share was 514th.

His self-criticism about a lack of defensive focus was a welcome dose of honesty, but he must improve if the Bulls want to become a playoff threat in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s just knowing the position and not relaxing,’’ LaVine said. “I’ve always been really good on the ball, and when that ball swings, I relax. That’s where you can get caught off-guard. I’ve watched a lot of film. With Coach [Fred Hoiberg], I was watching different things on how you can stay engaged and always have your teammates’ back in rotations.


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“It’s getting there, and I think we’re going to have a good run at it in camp.’’

Until then?

“People are going to talk regardless,’’ LaVine said. “It’s a story to talk about defense, bad this and bad that. I think we’re always looking for the positives and showing how we can grow. We all know how explosive we can be on the other end. If we get that down, we’re going to be scary.’’

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