Every time Zach LaVine steps on a basketball court, he carries himself as the best player on it. That's what makes him the player he is.
But LaVine has also long known that widespread recognition requires team success, as well as individual brilliance. Take his multi-year quest for an All-Star berth as an example.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating," LaVine said on the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast of not having made an All-Star team. "Obviously everybody when you put work in, you want the recognition. And I think before you get that it has to come from winning. And you have to understand that.
"Now, do I think of myself any less if I don't get voted an All-Star? No. Whenever I step on the court, I think I'm the best player on the court, that's just me. But over the last couple of years, I don't think there's 12 better players in the conference than me. And I try to let my play do the talking."
LaVine then reiterated his team-first approach, which has permeated his seventh season. One front-and-center example: The Bulls guard is averaging the highest number of assists per game of his career with 5.2, a 1-dime jump from last season. He's also, for the fourth consecutive season since tearing his ACL in February 2017, increased his scoring average and efficiency. The Bulls' 8-12 record, while uninspiring on its face, has them in the play-in picture in the Eastern Conference.
"I think I've grown each year. And I think experience and these ups and downs has helped me through that," LaVine said on the podcast. "I go into the lab in the offseason, I think all you guys know I work extremely hard. But this year I've been not just physically but mentally trying to approach the game differently and continue to take those steps forward."
Those outside of the Chicagoland sphere are taking notice. Recently, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade have tweeted effusive praise for LaVine. Tom Thibodeau, Rick Carlisle and P.J. Tucker have also taken time to laud him in the press. The list goes on.
"I think for basketball players that means more than anything. I think that's the thing that takes you longer," LaVine said of getting recognition from his peers. "Especially if you get snubbed or if you don't have some of those individual accolades and your peers come up and tell you, 'Hey look, you're still that guy' or 'I see you at this level.' You know, that means a lot because that's the company that you're playing with and they hold you to a higher standard."
Also on the podcast: LaVine discusses his past life as a baseball player, gives his Seattle hoops Mount Rushmore, dishes on playing with Kevin Garnett and more.
Bulls Talk Podcast