A give-and-take has emerged between Zach LaVine and new-look Bulls
LaVine’s scoring has dipped since Nikola Vucevic was acquired, but he’s fine with that if it means winning. Coach Billy Donovan, however, wants LaVine to understand that he’ll still be called upon to take over.
Guard Zach LaVine’s scoring has dipped.
His field-goal percentage and three-point percentage have taken a hit.
But his ego remains steady. LaVine has joined the game’s elite by reaching All-Star status, but he’s not above sacrificing.
It’s about winning for LaVine, so if that means playing less hero ball to make room for a second All-Star, so be it. Playing alongside Nikola Vucevic is worth it.
“I’m more than fine with that,’’ LaVine said. “As long as there’s a ‘W’ behind there, I’m good.
“I think you guys know me. I’m all about winning and trying to get this team to be better, so if that means taking a lesser role some nights and my scoring goes down, I’m fine with that.’’
He had better be because his scoring has gone down since the March 25 trade-deadline deal rescued Vucevic from the Magic.
Before the trade, LaVine was averaging 27.9 points. In the five games he has played with Vucevic, his average is down to 19.4. Meanwhile, little has changed for Vucevic. Before he was a Bull, he was averaging 24.5 points and close to 12 rebounds. In his six games with his new team, he’s at 22.7 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Both are learning to coexist, but the transition for Vucevic has been more seamless. That tends to happen for a 6-11 big man with such a versatile offensive game.
“Zach is a great player,’’ Vucevic said. “He can score in many ways. He can facilitate. He does a lot of things on the court. I think at times he might be a little too unselfish and he can be a little more aggressive, which I’ve told him.
“The more him and I are able to grow and build that chemistry in a two-man game, the better it will be for the whole team. In this league, when you have a two-man game like that with two guys who can score in different ways, it’s very hard to guard.’’
That was the case for the Pacers in the Bulls’ 113-97 victory Tuesday. LaVine struggled with his shot — he was 6-for-18 from the field — but still finished with 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Vucevic gave Indiana problems all game, finishing with 32 and 17.
And that’s the key for the Bulls. LaVine can have poor shooting nights, and the team isn’t handicapped like it was before.
Coach Billy Donovan was running portions of his offense through the post — specifically with Thad Young — before the trade, and LaVine was benefitting from it because Young was a pass-first facilitator out of many of those sets.
With Vucevic, however, even more offense is going through the post, and while he also is a great passer, his offensive prowess naturally takes shots away from LaVine.
Donovan’s message to LaVine is to be patient and not change a thing. Vucevic needs someone to get him the ball; LaVine doesn’t.
“Zach can just go get it, so he knows the juncture and times in the game and is able to create and make those kinds of plays,’’ Donovan said. “I think that Zach needs to be aggressive in who he is.
“As long as we are generating good shots and we’re efficient with what we’re doing offensively, I really don’t care who gets the shots.’’