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NBA All-Star host Bulls not thrilled with snubs

Zach LaVine will be the only player the hometown fans will see over All-Star Weekend, and it’s just in the three-point contest. He isn’t the only one unhappy with the league overlooking the Bulls.

“Yeah, it’s upsetting, but you know … we see the way it’s gotta be,’’ Zach LaVine said of the Bulls not having a greater All-Star Weekend presence. “We gotta be in the [playoff] hunt.”
“Yeah, it’s upsetting, but you know … we see the way it’s gotta be,’’ Zach LaVine said of the Bulls not having a greater All-Star Weekend presence. “We gotta be in the [playoff] hunt.”
David Banks/AP

WASHINGTON — It all felt like a slap in the face to the Bulls, who are preparing to host NBA All-Star Weekend starting this Friday at the United Center. Nearly two weeks later, the sting hasn’t exactly subsided.

Rookie guard Coby White left out of the Rising Stars Game.

Second-year center Wendell Carter Jr. getting a Rising Stars invite but unable to participate because of his sprained right ankle.

And the biggest punch to the gut: NBA coaches not voting guard Zach LaVine into the All-Star Game as a reserve, despite some pretty eye-opening numbers. Maybe not Bradley Beal eye-opening — the Wizards guard was also snubbed — but good enough that a player from the host city might have been given a pass.

With LaVine declining to enter the slam-dunk contest, the Bulls’ only representation all weekend will be LaVine’s participation in the three-point contest Saturday. That’s it.

Multiple sources have told the Sun-Times the Bulls are not thrilled with how this has played out, and LaVine hasn’t hidden his frustration, either.

“Yeah, it’s upsetting, but you know . . . we see the way it’s got to be,” LaVine said. “We’ve got to be in the [playoff] hunt [to be considered for All-Star invitations]. We’re in the hunt a little bit, but we’re not solidified. We had some ups and downs, had some injuries. But like I told you guys in the beginning, [if] we win, we all succeed. So we’ll get there, I’ll get there, and I don’t have a doubt in my mind about that.”

LaVine is averaging a career-best 25 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists. But the ability that matters most may be his availability.

After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee midway through the 2016-17 season with the Timberwolves, then playing only 24 games in his first year as a Bull the next season, he wants to show he can be not just the face of the organization but an iron man while so many of his teammates are sidelined with injuries.

That was tested leading into the Bulls’ 118-111 loss in Philadelphia on Sunday, with LaVine listed as questionable with a sore neck before the game. Not only did he play, but he scored a game-high 32 points in 40 minutes.

Despite the trend of “load management” across the league, LaVine is trying to be old-school and play all 82 games. He accomplished it once, in 2015-16 with the Timberwolves, and takes pride in it.

“I don’t like missing games,” he said. “I mean, since I hurt myself and I had to miss all those games [with the knee], you know, it takes a toll on you. I love basketball, and I’m going to go out there and play if I can.”

Coach Jim Boylen is holding up that mentality for the rest of his often-injured locker room to see.

“It [speaks] to [LaVine’s] growth, his wanting to be a primary guy and performing like a primary guy, even when you don’t feel well,” Boylen said. “That’s what big-time guys do. If you would have saw the way he looked [Saturday] and the way he was moving to how he fought through [to play Sunday], it was a great thing for us and a great thing for him. It [speaks] to his maturity and his development. Proud of him. His habits are really good right now — really good.”