Bulls guard Zach LaVine named All-Star reserve for second straight year
LaVine was hoping to be named a starter last week but fell just short in the voting. On Thursday, the coaches voted him in as a reserve.
Zach LaVine didn’t exactly enjoy the wait, but he had a pretty strong feeling all along of how this was going to end.
Falling short last week in All-Star voting, the Bulls guard was nonetheless named to his second consecutive All-Star Game on Thursday, picked by NBA coaches as a reserve before the Bulls took the court against the Raptors in Toronto.
Considering his numbers this season for a first-place team, LaVine only wished the process was more consistent. Last season, he had ridiculous stats and made the team as a reserve despite the Bulls lagging in the standings. This time around, his numbers were lower, but the Bulls sure weren’t.
“I wasn’t in that same position [this season], or the narrative wasn’t the same, but it is what it is,” LaVine said. “Keep my head down, keep on working. Either way, we’re going to enjoy the weekend.”
Bulls teammate DeMar DeRozan was voted an All-Star starter last week, while Ayo Dosunmu was named to the rookie team in the Rising Stars Challenge. Bulls coach Billy Donovan also is still in position to be named an All-Star coach.
What a difference one season makes. A year ago, the Bulls were falling all over themselves after getting LaVine into the All-Star showcase.
“I think it’s great,” Donovan said. “Any time you’re in a position where you’re very, very competitive and you’re in the thick of things, players get rewarded from that. . . . I think Zach’s respect across the league by players of his ability and his talent is really incredible.”
LaVine entered Thursday ranked 13th in the NBA with 24.9 points per game, second to DeRozan (26.5) for the team lead. He was also averaging 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 48.4% from the field.
But those stats don’t reflect his effort and improvement on defense, which opened eyes around the league last summer.
“As they were selecting the USA Team, coach [Gregg Popovich] and [director] Sean Ford had called me,” Donovan said. “A lot of the players that were on that team had gone to Pop and Sean Ford and people in USA really endorsing Zach as a player. That speaks to him. He’s really evolved, and he’s gotten better.
“Just watching him grow and develop last year, and then watching him come into this season, the work he put into this summer to try and get better . . . I’ve said this before about players: Sometimes guys evolve and grow at different times and different paces and speeds, but I think Zach continues to get better and better. He’s a huge, huge part of what we’ve done so far at this point in time.”
Thursday’s game started a run of four games in five nights for the Bulls — and seven games in 10 nights. Donovan will keep a close eye on the starters and consider resting some of them a game if need be.
“It will definitely be a physical toll on these guys, and we’ll have to monitor that closely,” he said.