Bulls guard Zach LaVine still says benching him was wrong decision
LaVine didn’t agree with coach Billy Donovan’s decision to sit him late in Friday’s loss to Orlando, and he felt exactly the same two days later. The two discussed it and said all the right things about moving forward.
Anyone who thought Sunday would be the start of Bulls guard Zach LaVine’s apology tour doesn’t know him very well.
While he always has been considered a model teammate and easy to coach, LaVine is also as confident in his ability as anyone in the league.
So when he expressed his displeasure with coach Billy Donovan’s decision to sit him in crunch time of the Bulls’ loss Friday to the Magic, he meant it. A couple of days away from the eyes of the media wasn’t going to change that.
‘‘I just told him I feel like I’ve earned the right to go out there and try to play through a bad game,’’ LaVine said of the discussion he had with Donovan. ‘‘[Donovan’s] decision was to try to do the best thing for the team, which I respect. If we won, obviously I would’ve been ecstatic. We lost, [so] I wasn’t. I had a terrible game.’’
That was something LaVine and Donovan could agree on.
With the Bulls trailing the Magic and LaVine shooting a dismal 1-for-14 from the field, Donovan went to second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu with just more than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The decision proved to be the right one, as the Bulls rallied to take a four-point lead and appeared on their way to snapping a three-game losing streak.
Magic guard Jalen Suggs, however, had a different ending in mind. He made two free throws, then took advantage of two missed free throws by Bulls big man Nikola Vucevic to make the game-winning three-pointer with five seconds left.
‘‘That’s Billy’s decision; he’s gotta lay with it,’’ LaVine said immediately afterward. ‘‘Do I agree with it? No. I think I can go out there and still be me, even if I miss some shots.
‘‘You play a guy like me down the stretch.’’
LaVine also said he wanted to speak with Donovan about it, and the two did just that.
‘‘We’re all good,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I think he understands where I’m coming from, and I understand [the] decisions that he has to make are tough, even if your players don’t agree with it. And that’s just what it is.’’
While LaVine had as bad a game as he could have, his point was he should have been on the court when the Magic were forced to foul.
‘‘I told [Donovan] at the very least bring me in for free throws,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I think I could’ve helped at least seal the game with free throws and help get the ball in bounds. I’m one of the best players on the court regardless of who’s playing, and I think that I should be on the court in crunch time. That’s just the mentality I have.’’
Donovan not only appreciated LaVine’s confidence but also what came out of their talk.
‘‘I felt it was the right thing for our team,’’ Donovan said of his decision to bench LaVine. ‘‘I totally get his competitiveness and his wanting to win and be out there. He should. You know, I think all great players want to be able to do that.
‘‘The one thing I’ve always tried to do with all these guys is have open communication. Am I going to agree with every decision these guys make between the lines when the game’s going on? No. Are they going to agree with every decision I’m going to make from the sideline? No. It happens. But I think it’s all about where people’s intentions are. I trust Zach’s intentions, and hopefully he trusts my intentions.’’