Bulls’ Zach LaVine falls short in third attempt to win 3-point contest

With two dunk titles, LaVine was looking to become the only player to also win the three-point contest. But he was eliminated in the first round.

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Zach LaVine attempts a shot in the three-point contest Saturday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — Zach LaVine knew what he was chasing Saturday night.

Now he doesn’t know how much longer that chase will go on.

Participating in All-Star Weekend’s three-point contest for a third consecutive season, LaVine again fell short, getting eliminated in the first round with a dismal score of 14 — the lowest total of the night. 

LaVine’s good friend Karl-Anthony Towns ended up the winner, finishing with an impressive 29 points in the final round.

So LaVine’s quest to become the first NBA player to win the slam-dunk contest — he did it twice — and the three-point contest fell short again.

Maybe for good?

“I don’t want to be the guy that’s in it every year and then wait until I win it on, like, the 10th attempt doing it,’’ LaVine said. “I just think the competition’s fun, especially if you’re in the All-Star Game and you’re here to compete. I think it’s a cool competition.’’

One idea he quickly crushed was someday returning to the dunk contest to reclaim his throne.

“I’m not gonna be in it again,’’ LaVine said. “I don’t have any dunks left.’’

Mr. Telephone Man

It didn’t take long for LaVine to reach out and have a phone conversation with big man Tristan Thompson, even before the Bulls made the signing official Saturday night. They released Alfonzo McKinnie to make room.

“It’s great,’’ LaVine said. “I’ve talked to [Thompson]. I think he’s going to bring another championship-level guy where he’s been in these games before. He can help us in these situations. With [executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley], obviously they’re going for it. They trust in me, they trust in DeMar [DeRozan], they trust in this group, and it just means a lot going into the last year of my contract that they’re putting a team around us that can compete.’’

Fits like a glove

Jimmy Butler likes to joke that he still might be a Bull someday, but his contract — he’s signed through 2024-25 with the Heat with a player option for 2025-26 — screams otherwise.

Then again, as the former Bulls All-Star pointed out, Miami’s culture fits him better than any place he has been.

He was considered the “bad cop’’ with the Bulls because of his tough-love leadership style, but what upset the locker room in Chicago is embraced with the Heat.

“I never was the bad cop; I was just the truthful guy,’’ Butler said. “The truth hurts sometimes.’’

Butler really appreciate that the Heat’s vets all have the same goal in mind, and the younger players follow suit no matter how hard they’re pushed.

“It has been [the best fit], but everyone knows where I’m coming from,’’ Butler said. “I just want to win, and nobody takes anything personal. More than anything now, we’ve got Kyle [Lowry]. So Kyle is the one that comes in and is like, ‘Jimmy, shut up, stop yelling. I got this.’ He can kind of mellow it out, and he does that for everybody.’’

The King

Butler wasn’t the only All-Star who teased about a return to his original team. LeBron James reportedly said the door is “not closed’’ on a return to Cleveland.

Wherever James ends up, it will come with one addition. He has said his last season in the league will be played with son Bronny, who is the 43rd-ranked high school prospect in the 2023 class, according to ESPN.

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