Bulls

Steve Kerr praises LaVine's role acceptance during Olympics

Bulls

Zach LaVine left a lot to be impressed by during his stint with USA Basketball's men's team at the Tokyo Olympics.

Shooting 60 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range, the Chicago Bulls guard's scoring efficiency popped. Hounding opposing ball-handlers full-court, his defensive improvements were on display. Averaging 18.7 minutes, he contributed significantly to winning basketball as the program took home its 16th gold medal.

But Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who served as an assistant on Gregg Popovich's staff during the Games, was most impressed by LaVine's role acceptance.

"I loved getting to know him. I thought his willingness to take on a role off the bench for us was huge," Kerr said of working with LaVine in advance of Friday's matchup with the Bulls. "He just got it. He understood exactly what we needed."

What the team needed, in Kerr's words, was "pressure defense," energy and athleticism off the pine, and responsible decision-making as an ancillary offensive option. LaVine averaged 9.7 points, but notched 20 assists against 3 turnovers and was a defensive pest on-the-ball, in six Olympic appearances (one start).

"For a guy who's used to starting his whole career, and used to being a star and putting up big numbers, it was such a smooth sacrifice," Kerr said. "I really enjoyed getting to know Zach and just watching him play and watching him interact with the rest of the team."

That speaks to LaVine's well-documented desire to win above all else, which has translated to the 2021-22 season thus far. LaVine's scoring production has taken a slight dip from his All-Star 2020-21 campaign, but his 25.9 points per game is still the second-highest of his career and tied for seventh in the NBA — one spot behind his new teammate DeMar DeRozan (26). The Bulls are off to an 8-3 start.

 

Now, Kerr can only hope that the lessons LaVine learned in Tokyo don't come to fruition against the veteran head coach's team.

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