With All-Star Weekend over, Bulls guard Zach LaVine ready to make playoff push

LaVine was the Bulls’ lone representative at All-Star Weekend. With that celebration in the rearview mirror, he wants the focus to be on a playoff push with 27 regular-season games left.

SHARE With All-Star Weekend over, Bulls guard Zach LaVine ready to make playoff push
bx053_4b15_9.jpg

Zach LaVine is still upbeat about the current roster and is shooting for a postseason berth even though the Bulls are 19-36, five games behind the No. 8 seed.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

As bad as the Bulls’ situation appeared from the outside this All-Star Weekend, Zach LaVine remains dedicated to the cause.

According to several sources, LaVine was doing his due diligence as a recruiter the last few days — a must for any player considered the face of his franchise.

He’s still upbeat about the current roster and is shooting for a postseason berth even though the Bulls are 19-36, five games behind the No. 8 seed.

“I mean, if you’re not confident in yourself or your team, you’ve already lost the battle,’’ LaVine said of a playoff push. “Obviously, I’m going out there to win.’’

He finally might get some help with starting center Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle) expected to start practicing again this week. There’s hope he’ll be ready for the game Thursday against the Hornets.

Lauri Markkanen (right pelvis) and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) will be rescanned, and if there are no setbacks after the tests, they could be back by the first week of March.

Will that be enough?

Likely not. The Bulls were healthy at the beginning of the season and only got off to a 3-7 start. Also, their schedule in March and early April gets tough, so LaVine’s goal of reaching the postseason for the first time in his six-year career could be a pipe dream.

LaVine’s hope is that his teammates show up to practice Tuesday night — undermanned or not — and get ready to tackle what’s in front of them, starting with a four-game homestand that’s more than winnable. Besides the Hornets, the Bulls will welcome the Suns, Wizards and Thunder. Only the Thunder have a winning record.

“For me personally, I just want to keep the foot on the gas pedal,’’ LaVine said. “You never know what’s going to happen. We can’t be in vacation mode. Sometimes you come out of the break, teams go up or down. Hopefully, we’ll be one of the teams that goes up.’’

If the Bulls are to go up, LaVine will need some help.

Going into the break, he was averaging 28.3 points in his last four games and shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range. And, oh, by the way, LaVine also was averaging 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

But the Bulls went into All-Star Weekend losers of six in a row.

“I’ve been able to deal with ups and downs really well this year, like a roller coaster,’’ LaVine said. “I feel I’ve been able to be pretty even-keeled, not getting too high on the highs or too low on the lows, and just locking in and being prepared for each game.’’

If LaVine can carry this team to the postseason, however, he knows it will carry weight into next season. He believes he wasn’t selected for the All-Star Game because he has never reached the playoffs.

Winning matters, and not just for All-Star recognition. LaVine also found out he was not on the list of players who could represent the United States in the upcoming Olympics.

“I think I made my case to be on it,’’ LaVine said. “But I’m not the one picking. Am I frustrated or disappointed? I wouldn’t say frustrated. I think it’s just a little more fuel to the fire. They had their reasons for picking their guys. It is what it is. It’s not going to stop what I represent.’’

The Latest
Andrus expected to join team in Cleveland Friday.
The three-day sporting competition, organized locally by the Chicago Park District, is for disabled veterans and wounded, ill or injured service members. It wrapped up Thursday.
The Cubs played a makeup game in Baltimore on Thursday to wrap up a seven-game road trip.
The chain is leasing locations in and near the Loop, taking advantage of available space to expand its brand here.