LaVine gain­ing All-Star sup­port

Boylen, Dunn have seen it: ‘He’s de­vel­op­ing in front of our eyes’

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BULLS - By Phil Thomp­son

Zach LaVine’s team­mates and coach see the same thing NBA fans have no­ticed this sea­son: The Bulls guard is a po­ten­tial All-Star.

“Ab­so­lutely,” Kris Dunn said of LaVine, who re­ceived the fifth­most votes among East­ern Con­fer­ence guards when early re­sults were re­leased Thurs­day. “He’s done so much for the team. He’s de­vel­op­ing in front of our eyes in the sense of get­ting guys in­volved and still be­ing him­self.

“That’s a hard role to take on for any team and any player, and he’s taken it on head-on. He takes the mis­takes right to the chest. A lot of peo­ple wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Added coach Jim Boylen: “I think he’s an All-Star player. I’ve coached a bunch of them, been around a bunch of them.”

LaVine’s of­fen­sive skills have gen­er­ated plenty of high­light­wor­thy mo­ments, such as when he capped up a 49-point per­for­mance against the Hor­nets with a win­ning 3-pointer in Novem­ber. Or last month in Wash­ing­ton, when he made a se­ries of clutch plays, in­clud­ing a 3-pointer and high-pres­sure free throws, to send the game to over­time in an even­tual Bulls vic­tory against the Wizards.

Ac­cord­ing to NBA sta­tis­tics, he has made the most “clutch” 3point­ers in the league with 13 af­ter tak­ing the most at­tempts in those sit­u­a­tions — within a five-point mar­gin with five min­utes or fewer to go — with 37, shoot­ing 35.1%. He’s 10th in the league in 3point­ers made per game at 3.1.

“If he gets in the All-Star Game, I need him in the dunk con­test,” Dunn said about LaVine, who twice won the con­test in 2015 and ’16. “I told him you’ve got to shut down Chicago, they’re com­ing to our house. I’m happy for him.”

LaVine is the Bulls’ lead­ing scorer at 23.4 points per game, good for 18th in the league. But even LaVine ac­knowl­edged in the pre­sea­son that of­fense alone prob­a­bly wouldn’t get him an All-Star nod for the Feb. 16 game at the United Cen­ter.

“I need to tran­si­tion to be­ing more of a two-way player,” he said in Oc­to­ber. “A lot of peo­ple know I can score the ball many ways, (but) I want to be not just known as a scorer, a good player on the team. I want to be in that elite­group con­ver­sa­tion of All-Stars in the NBA. And I feel like that comes with win­ning.”

LaVine has 45 steals in 35 games this sea­son — he had 63 in 60 games in 2018-19 — and his de­fen­sive rat­ing has im­proved from 112.4 to 106.7.

“He came re­ally far,” said Dunn, who usu­ally de­fends op­po­nents’ best scor­ers. “A lot of peo­ple dis­credit his on-ball de­fense. He’s ac­tu­ally a re­ally good on-ball de­fender.

Boylen also said LaVine has im­proved de­fen­sively.

“The thing I like about him in the walk-throughs and the shootaroun­ds and our times when we drill stuff, he’s com­mu­ni­cat­ing bet­ter and he’s got that chat­ter go­ing,” the coach said. “He’s bought into com­mu­ni­cat­ing and be­ing tied in with his team­mates. He’s guarded some of the bet­ter play­ers in the league. He’s taken the chal­lenge on those matchups.

“His goal is to be­come an elite two-way player and he’s re­ally mov­ing in that di­rec­tion.”

But LaVine’s still prone to de­fen­sive lapses, such as not pick­ing up weak-side help.

“Ev­ery­one has their mishaps,” Dunn said.

Boylen agreed that LaVine could be a bet­ter with his off-ball de­fense, like any­one else on the team. But he’s see­ing a dif­fer­ence in LaVine’s re­ac­tion in those mo­ments he makes a costly mis­take.

“He gets frus­trated,” Boylen said. “I think it pains him more than ever when there’s a mis­take made in that sit­u­a­tion, and I like that.”

“I think he’s an All-Star player. I’ve coached a bunch of them, been around a bunch of them.” — Jim Boylen on Zach LaVine

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