PHILADELPHIA — Zach LaVine is a scorer first.
The three-pointer is just a weapon in his scoring arsenal.
The Bulls guard knows that all goes to the wayside Saturday night, when he has to be solely a long-range specialist when he competes in his first-ever three-point contest.
And just to add more pressure, he has been dealing with a sore neck that almost kept him out of the 118-111 loss to the 76ers. He totaled 32 points and eight assists in the game.
“A little bit,’’ said LaVine when asked if the injury has been a setback in preparing for the contest. “I haven’t got a lot of time out there. I worked out with [assistant coach] Shawn Respert and ironically our [assistant] equipment manager Steve Pankow, just with the rack, shooting and stuff like that. I shot it pretty well [Sunday] morning, so I feel pretty good about it.’’
While LaVine obviously wanted to be in the All-Star Game rather than one of its sideshows, especially because it’s in Chicago, he simply has had to embrace it.
The team sure has, starting with Bulls coach Jim Boylen, who had racks shipped in to allow LaVine to learn the intricacies of the contest, starting with grabbing the balls off the rack and the strategy behind it.
In Boylen’s eyes, why not bolster the LaVine legacy by becoming the first player to win a dunk contest — LaVine has done that twice — and the three-point contest?
That sounds good to LaVine, who feels like he has a whole lot to prove.
“Obviously, I want to be in the game on Sunday, but I’m taking it for what it is,’’ LaVine said. “I know who I am. I know who I am on the court. I’m not going to let that affect it. I’m still going out there and playing my butt off.’’