Derrick Jones Jr. vs. Zach LaVine in the ultimate dunk contest? Nope
Acquired this offseason, Jones downplayed talk about the idea of the two former dunk champions going at it in the ultimate dunk-off.
There’s always a hope for a ‘‘Rocky III’’ ending.
Much like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed did at the end of that movie, perhaps Bulls teammates Derrick Jones Jr. and Zach LaVine will meet in some dimly lit gym with no judges, no teammates and no fans, just a ball and a rim, to determine the best dunker on the team.
In the end, no one but 2020 dunk champion Jones and two-time dunk champion LaVine would know who’s better.
Unfortunately, it’s going to have to stay a Hollywood script.
‘‘That ain’t happening, I ain’t gonna lie,’’ Jones said when he was asked Thursday whether he and LaVine had engaged in any sort of dunk-off talk. ‘‘Zach got it. He won two championships. I mean, if it happens, it happens. But that’s my guy.’’
According to Jones, not even his new Bulls teammates have been trying to stir up that showdown.
‘‘Nah, we’re not really paying attention to dunks,’’ he said. ‘‘Throughout the course of practice or a workout, if we get an open lane, we dunk it. I’ve seen him dunk one time since I’ve been here, so I don’t think we’re going to have a dunk-off anytime soon.’’
The way Jones sees it, he has bigger goals to focus on. Acquired from the Trail Blazers in the three-way deal that sent Lauri Markkanen to the Cavaliers, Jones is in the mix for a key role off the bench and, until Patrick Williams is back from an injured left ankle, a shot in the starting lineup.
And while he has no idea how that will play out, he knows he’s in the right place for the first time in a few years.
Jones confirmed a Sun-Times story from April 2020, when it was reported that the Bulls were looking at him as a free-agent addition.
‘‘Yeah, a few years ago, I did know,’’ Jones said. ‘‘Right before I signed with Portland, I knew that Chicago was heavy on me. This has always been my favorite NBA team. . . . I’ve always been a big D-Rose [Derrick Rose] fan and a big [Michael] Jordan fan. Me being in this position now, I’m just so grateful. Every moment I’m out there on the floor, I’m going to play it like it’s my last.’’
Guard Coby White had a classic reaction when he first was told about his shoulder injury this offseason, telling reporters the first thing he asked the doctor was, ‘‘Uh, what is a labrum?’’
After laughing through his account of the story with the media, White said the doctor ‘‘did a good job of explaining to me what it was and what the process was gonna be like. At that point, there’s not too much you can do about it. I just kinda took it in stride and continued to just attack rehab.’’
That’s not the only thing White attacked this offseason. He said a key for him has been taking mental reps, which means diving into film and talking the game through with coaches.
‘‘Me growing mentally and watching a lot of film, that’s all I really could do,’’ White said. ‘‘Now I just started getting back on the court. I’ve never been out this long for basketball, so right now it’s focusing on getting my shoulder strong and just finding a rhythm on the basketball court.’’