Bulls guard Zach LaVine is having one memorable All-Star Weekend
LaVine wasn’t able to get out of the first round of his first three-point contest on Saturday night, but that was the least of his problems this All-Star Weekend.
Zach LaVine was chasing history Saturday night.
By the end of the first round of the three-point contest, he was history.
And just like that, the Bulls’ lone representative at All-Star Weekend had come and gone, but not without a few memorable moments — not all of them good.
LaVine would’ve loved to focus strictly on basketball, but a day earlier as a guest on ESPN’s “First Take,’’ he quickly felt the hometown crowd’s wrath for the Bulls’ management team.
Co-host Max Kellerman asked LaVine about vice president of basketball operations John Paxson possibly adding another star player to help take the load off his shoulders, and the crowd immediately started to boo. When LaVine tried to play peacemaker, the boos quickly turned into “Fire Gar-Pax’’ chants.
LaVine addressed that issue Saturday.
“You guys know I’m pretty good with the media and being able to move around that,’’ LaVine said. “I don’t speak for the fans. Obviously, I think the fans in Chicago have been frustrated. But you guys know me personally: I’m with the team. I’m the one who puts on the uniform, and I step in front of the fans and do my job. It wasn’t tough. It gets rowdy. I know Chicago fans get rowdy, too. It is what it is. Things happen in the spur of the moment. You just have to deal with it.
“I mean, there’s negativity and positivity that’s been going around the city for a long time. I think it’s a little bit more magnified now because it’s All-Star Weekend. That doesn’t change who I am or what I do or what I stand for. I’m still Zach LaVine. I play for the Bulls, so I have to represent myself and them.’’
LaVine had a message for that same fan base: Trust that he will keep trying to get it right.
“I appreciate the fans who have stayed loyal,’’ LaVine said. “Me personally, I appreciate all the fans who support me and come each game. I feel like I’m somebody they can trust and somebody who puts the work in. I don’t care if we’re down 100 or up 100. You’re going to get the same reaction from me, the same determination to try to win. We’re trying to win. You know me personally. I want to do nothing but win.’’
But the Bulls have only 19 wins in Year 3 of their rebuild.
The hope was All-Star Weekend would be a nice escape for the host city, but when LaVine missed out on making the All-Star Game as a reserve, the only intrigue left was what part he would play the rest of the weekend.
He opted to participate only in the three-point contest even though he’s a two-time slam-dunk champion.
There were rumors floating around early Saturday morning, however, that maybe LaVine could somehow sneak into the dunk contest, especially when a video of him attempting a 360 dunk from the free-throw line recently went viral.
But LaVine laughed the video off.
“It wasn’t even supposed to go viral, man,’’ LaVine said. “I got mad at my friend. He was with me recording. I was just messing around, trying to see what I still had and what I could do. It was just in good fun. I was practicing some stuff after I got done shooting.’’
While he just missed the dunk in the video, LaVine did make it a few years back when he was with the Timberwolves. Then-teammate Andrew Wiggins taped it.
“I could probably make it still,’’ LaVine said.
But he couldn’t make shots from the money-ball rack from straight on. LaVine even admitted afterward that he’s a better corner-three shooter, but he opted to put the higher-valued balls in the middle rack. It cost him, as his 23 points in the first round were only good enough to earn him fourth. Only the top three advanced, with the Kings’ Buddy Hield winning it all.
“I’m past the dunk contest, man,’’ LaVine said. “If I could have changed it around, I would have put the money balls in the corner. I would have put them last. I’m [ticked off], I wanted to bring that trophy home.’’
Miami’s Bam Adebayo won the skills challenge, then Heat teammate Derrick Jones Jr. prevailed in an epic dunk contest. Jones and Magic forward Aaron Gordon had to go to a “dunk-off,’’ which Jones won on a controversial decision.
For the second time, Gordon finished second (LaVine beat him in 2016). In Gordon’s estimation, jumping over 7-5 Tacko Fall and getting nines from three of the five judges for his last dunk was just wrong.
“It’s a wrap,’’ Gordon said when asked if he would do another dunk contest. “I feel like I should have two trophies.’’