Following his first practice as a Chicago Bull, Patrick Beverley shared with reporters his advice for Zach LaVine.
“Your job here is not to pass at all,” Beverley said on Feb. 22. “We don’t need you to pass. We need you to put the ball in the hole at an elite level. That’s my job to keep preaching on that.”
LaVine is actually a willing passer who is averaging 3.9 assists this season. But it somehow seemed fitting that he posted 41 points with zero assists in Wednesday’s 117-115 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
LaVine’s fourth 40-point game of the season not only continued his strong offensive play of late but fulfilled Beverley’s desire for him to shoot early and often. The Pistons started trapping LaVine late, forcing the Bulls into isolation-heavy possessions typically ending in a DeMar DeRozan shot.
Still, LaVine’s 20 shots marked his most since Feb. 15 and only the 19th time he has attempted 20 or more this season. He sank 14 of them against the Pistons, starting March off the way he finished a torrid February.
LaVine averaged 25.5 points on 52 percent shooting over 12 February games, his first month averaging 25 or more points while shooting 50 percent or better.
Not that LaVine’s January was inefficient. He averaged 26.1 points---his highest scoring average by month this season---on 46.2 percent shooting. This followed a December in which LaVine averaged 24.5 points on 52.1 percent shooting.
Remember LaVine’s slow start this season? It’s getting harder to.
“I’ve caught my rhythm the last couple of months,” LaVine said following Sunday’s home victory over the Washington Wizards.
Nine of LaVine’s 20 attempts against the Pistons came from behind the arc as coach Billy Donovan kept utilizing pindowns to try to take advantage of LaVine’s elite catch-and-shoot ability. LaVine sank six 3-pointers.
LaVine also got the line seven times, although one came following a technical foul assessed to rookie Jaden Ivy for calling a timeout the Pistons didn’t have in the final 10 seconds. LaVine is at his most effective either in catch-and-shoot situations or getting downhill, often leading to free-throw attempts.
In fact, Beverley said he doesn’t want LaVine dribbling as much. That’s his job.
LaVine is now up to 5.5 free-throw attempts per game after his slow start. He’s also now averaging 7.3 3-point attempts this season, marking the third-highest of his career.
“The ones that want to be great, they respond well to it,” Beverley said of his advice. “Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Anthony Edwards, I played with James Harden, Kawhi Leonard. I can get in their face and tell them, ‘Hey man, put the ball in the basket.’ And they respond well. And the guys who don’t aren’t the greats. I’m excited for that challenge and (LaVine) is also.”
LaVine is playing like it.