It’s not the first time Zach LaVine’s name has popped up in a rap song.
It’s only the latest.
“Moved to the Windy City, top five we gonna win. Zach LaVine from the line, all you clowns on the pine. Count it out, just fine,’’ DeMar DeRozan declares in a track he released last week titled “500 M Liquid’’ with a rapper named Problem.
Speaking of problems, LaVine and DeRozan have spent the last week working out with each other, so the rest of the Eastern Conference might have a new problem on its hands. Actually, three problems.
Throw Nikola Vucevic into the mix, and just like that, the Bulls have a “Three Alphas’’ remix.
Bulls fans remember the original well. Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo came together, nicknamed themselves the Three Alphas and guided the Bulls to their last playoff appearance in 2017.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the three as egos clashed throughout the season, but they still had the top-seeded Celtics on the ropes in the opening playoff round but let them off the hook after Rondo was lost with a thumb injury.
LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic, however, promise to operate a bit differently. DeRozan and Vucevic are pretty much ego-free. They aren’t concerned with who the lead alpha is or whose team it is.
At this point in their careers, the ‘‘W’’ is the only goal, and whatever it takes to get there is the journey that interests them the most.
Both know that LaVine has seniority with the Bulls and a brand-new gold medal from Tokyo.
And you can expect to see an even more polished LaVine this season. DeRozan knows what Olympic play did for his game.
“First and foremost, just being around the greatest players in the world, being among the group of the greatest players in the world, the greatest minds, the greatest coaches, it does something unconsciously to you that gives you the ultimate confidence, the ultimate work ethic, makes you realize that you belong in the elite category of guys,’’ DeRozan said recently. “And that carries over to the season.
‘‘You see you’re next to a Kevin Durant every single day, a Damian Lillard every single day. You’re among these guys every single day. You see their work ethic, the way they approach the game, the winning mentality that they have and what it feels like to win. And something like that carries over whether you realize it or not. It goes a long way.’’
That doesn’t mean Vucevic and DeRozan will concede every big shot to LaVine like the Bulls had grown accustomed to doing. The new-look Alphas actually seem to share a respect for each other’s games. Playing hero won’t have a pecking order.
Best shot takes the shot.
That’s one of the reasons DeRozan chose the Bulls over other suitors. He trusts LaVine to deliver in crucial moments but also believes LaVine won’t need the spotlight every time it presents itself.
“You see [LaVine] wants to win bad,’’ DeRozan said. “You see it. That will never go unnoticed.
“So for me, always watching that, I always try to put myself next to players like that because that’s where a lot of respect comes from. Watching guys like Zach, you see them put in the work, how bad they want to win, how bad they want it, and it’s just not about highlights and All-Stars. It’s much bigger than that.’’
The Three Alphas 2.0?
Sure, if that’s what you want to call them.
But this version is a lot different.
No nicknames needed.