Bulls guard Zach LaVine playing the waiting game for All-Star Weekend
LaVine still isn’t committing to competing in the dunk contest until he hears whether he will be an All-Star.
PHILADELPHIA — Zach LaVine would have loved to be able to give a firm answer Friday about his participation in the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend.
But the high-flying Bulls guard is in an unfamiliar position: a holding pattern.
Before taking the court against the 76ers on Friday night, LaVine sounded more open to returning to the contest — which he won twice as a member of the Timberwolves before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in 2017. But he again insinuated his return would be easier if he were also chosen to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Asked if he’d made a decision yet, LaVine said, “Nope, not yet. I’ll find out probably when the All-Star voting comes out.”
Translation: You want me in your contest, then put me in your game.
LaVine is also waiting on an invitation to the Three-Point Shootout.
“I should [hear] soon, but I think they want me for the dunk contest, so that makes sense,” he said.
LaVine’s concern, first and foremost, is to be an All-Star for the first time. He has shown more than enough this season to qualify, and his campaign has only picked up steam. In his last 10 games entering the weekend, he was averaging 27.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists.
“There’s goals individually you want to meet,’’ he said. “You play the game, work out in the offseason and all that — not just for the team, but personal things as well. Anybody would want to have that achievement.”
If it doesn’t come?
“I understood the situation,” LaVine said, referring to the Bulls sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings. “Winning comes first, and a lot of good things come from that, as a team and individually. Me, personally, it’s not going to change my confidence or how I look at myself when I step on the floor. I know who I am.”
Still, the Bulls would love to put that feather in their cap in Year 3 of their rebuild. LaVine as an All-Star would be evidence of real star power and give them a solid selling point to attract free agents.
“We think Zach is an All-Star-caliber player,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I think he’s played All-Star basketball. I think it’s a great story, with the knee injury after the dunk contests [he won], and working his way back. He’s still only played 150-some games in a Bulls uniform in three years, so to me, it’s a hell of a story of perseverance, of toughness, of a guy working his way through it with a young team.”
Boylen would love repeating that story when it’s time to recruit new players.
“I think, first of all, we tried to put Zach into positions for him to be successful,” Boylen said. “That’s what you talk to a free agent about — the free agent we feel wants to be a part of what we’re building in Chicago, and we’ve got to help him become who he could become.
“I also think Zach can be a spokesman, a salesman for what we’re doing. As you know, players talks, so that’s important.”
NOTE: Forward Chandler Hutchison was able to return to the court Friday after leaving late in Wednesday’s win over the Wizards when he reinjured his right shoulder in a fall to the floor. He was under no play restrictions.