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Sports Saturday

Bulls writer Joe Cowley takes guard Zach LaVine into the Chat Room

A little dirty secret about Zach LaVine’s dunk game? He can’t palm the basketball. All those dunk-contest trophies at multiple levels, and “I have to balance it with my hand when I’m going up,’’ LaVine explained.

What needs no explanation is LaVine and Aaron Gordon have the bragging rights on the best All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest of all time, with the 2016 showdown in Toronto still an instant classic. Just don’t tell LaVine that, who took the easy way out and tipped his hat to the 1988 throw-down between M.J. and ‘Nique.

The Bulls guard isn’t just a high-riser and connoisseur of dunks, however.

He’s a gamer in his down time, playing with some serious heavy hitters in that on-line world, and he actually thinks Bulls color analyst Stacey King is eatable. That’s why LaVine is a welcome addition to the Chat Room.

First time you dunked in a game?

Zach LaVine: “The first time I dunked in a game was in eighth grade at a high school jamboree. I went up with my left hand just to lay it in and I even surprised myself when I turned it over.

Was your dunk contest with Aaron Gordon the best of all time?

ZL: “Nah, cause you got to pay homage to the ones that came before me, so I would say the Michael Jordan [vs.] Dominique, and then the Vince Carter one [in 2000].’’

Don’t you really think ‘Nique beat Jordan?

ZL: “I don’t know man. A lot of people think Aaron Gordon beat me, but me and Mike both have the trophies.’’

Which current NBA player is the best playground player?

ZL: “Probably James Harden because his game already fits that, but a guy that crosses guys up, does all that stuff, I mean J.R. Smith is incredible in open gyms. But I go with Harden.’’

What about Bulls players?

ZL: “Oh me. I go with me … no doubter.’’

Why not save the drama and just admit you have to come out of retirement and sit back on the throne of the dunk contest next year when it comes to Chicago?

ZL: “Yeah man, I’ve got to see how my legs feel. I know a lot of people want me in there, so I’ll have to evaluate it. I don’t give into peer pressure, so if things line up, maybe.’’

Were teammates extra careful around Bobby Portis after that punch of Nikole Mirotic?

ZL: [Laughs] We all knew what Bobby was capable of before that.’’

Tougher coach – not physically – but more demanding, Jim [Boylen] or Thibs [Tom Thibodeau]?

ZL: “I’d say Thibs.’’

If you weren’t a professional basketball player what would you be?

ZL: “Major league player … center fielder.’’

You and Lauri [Markkanen] both brag about your video game talents, so who is a better gamer?

ZL: “I’ve never seen Lauri play, but you know how I am with competition, so I’m picking me. I could put a stream together some day.’’

Team plane with the full traveling party goes down on a deserted island, who gets eaten first and who is the last survivor on the island?

ZL: “Wow. There’s no way off? Wow. Who gets eaten first? [TV announcer] Stacey [King]. [Laughs] Who gets eaten last? Man, I don’t know. You better get me in my sleep. Wayne Selden is a big body, and Wayne would be hard to kill. Got that look to him. RoLo [Robin Lopez] would definitely be hard to kill. It might be us three in one last all out brawl. I’m not laying down for anybody.’’