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Zach LaVine explains decision to vote, thoughts on fight for social justice

Zach LaVine explains decision to vote, thoughts on fight for social justice

At a rally to address social justice issues in Seattle on Thursday, Zach LaVine made both an important plea and a notable admission.

“Go vote,” he said, via a video from Percy Allen of The Seattle Times. “I haven’t been able to go and do that yet, but coming this November I am going to, because I know it’s gonna change something.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, which has sparked global unrest and protests, many have voiced the need for change, unity and concerted action to combat police brutality and injustice. LaVine added to that chorus (and past comments of his own) on a Friday conference call with reporters. 

He also confirmed that he’s never voted before, but made it a point to explain the evolution of his involvement in politics in his comments.

“It (voting) just wasn’t something that I was hip to,” LaVine said. “Obviously, I know that you have the right to vote, but everybody doesn’t have to. With what’s going on, I think it matters a lot more now, at least to me, because I think every single vote counts. Before, I wasn’t educated at all on it. I’m trying to educate myself now more on the politics and what goes on and how things are voted on. So just taking action in my own community and trying to do my part is the reason why I’m moving forward with that.”

LaVine went on to encourage others to educate themselves — as he has and continues to do — on issues that resonate with them and act on them at the ballot box.

“Go out there and not just vote for presidency but things in your own community, as well,” LaVine said. “Because everything that you vote for can make a change and put those people who are in power to hear your voice and help make that change, as well. Educating yourself, making sure that we're all together, because what's going on isn't right.”

Action outside of the electoral process can manifest in different ways for different people. For some, it’s seeking out education on topics once unfamiliar to them. For others, it’s speaking out — whether it be in their own social niches or on social media. For one person, it might mean donating. For another, it might mean protesting. 

Whatever one’s personal preference or capacity, LaVine is imploring any and all allies to the cause to get involved, now more fervently than ever.

“This has been going on for a long time. I think the video cameras shed light on a lot of things, what's been going on with the world and police and different things like that,” LaVine said. “I think now that we're starting to get this platform for all athletes and entertainers to use our platform for good, and I just want to continue to go out there and share that, as well. There's going to have to be some type of movement, and maybe it might not be this generation, it might be the next, but you know, it can't continue to be this way.”

LaVine’s advice for those looking for ways to take action was all-encompassing, and centered on being unabashedly yourself.

“Educate yourself. Be active. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be different either. Go out there and try to make a change even if you have an opinion and you’re the only one in the room talking,” LaVine said. “Don’t be afraid of that, because I think now with what’s going on, everybody has a certain opinion and now that everybody is talking, it’s OK to have that opinion. If something settles down and you’re the only one with an opinion, I think it’s a little bit harder for someone to speak up. So don’t feel scared about that. And go out there and do what’s right for you.”

He also parsed through the complex nature of the protests, which have in some instances featured looting.

“Everybody has a voice right now and we’re bringing attention to it, to where we have to be heard,” LaVine said. “Some of the negatives, obviously there’s a lot of frustration, not just in the black community but a lot of communities, where looting and things are going on. And you have to understand everybody’s situation. 

“For me personally, I don’t like looting and stealing, but if that’s a way for people to get their frustration out, that’s how it has to be. But it’s not being portrayed that way. It’s being portrayed as the black community is looting when that’s just the way of frustration and getting things out. And the black community isn’t the only one looting. The TV has their own narrative and they’re going to share their own narrative so we’ve got to be careful about that.”

The Bulls, according to LaVine, recently assembled on a Zoom call to talk through their emotions in the wake of the events of the past few weeks, organized by Arturas Karnisovas. LaVine called it a “safe space,” and pledged continued action moving forward.

“Not everybody has somebody to talk to or they feel afraid to talk, so, a safe space to talk and I think moving forward we're obviously going to do something,” LaVine said. “I think the league's going to do something. But I think that's going to come at a time when we can get together and actually sit down and think of something that's powerful.”

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How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

C.J. Watson carved out a 10-year NBA career with not just talent but also an ability to overcome odds and tune out doubters.

So whenever the former Bulls guard encountered skepticism for his latest dream, he’d answer every "Why” with a "Why not?”

That dream? To create children's books. Watson, 36, has now published two titles: "CJ’s Big Dream" and "CJ’s Big Project." The first came out last November, the second in March.

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“It was just a random idea I had to challenge myself and try to push myself,” Watson said in a phone conversation. “I want to try to continue to be an inspiration. Playing in the NBA is an inspiration to kids. But I wanted to continue to offer kids knowledge and tell my story through books.

“Kids are the next generation of leaders. They’re the next entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers. Some kid will grow up to be President. I just wanted to try to share some gems and drops of knowledge. I want to try to propel little boys and girls and let them know it’s OK to shoot for their dreams and to dream big.”

The books were written by author Tamika Newhouse and illustrated by Cameron Wilson based on stories shared by Watson. Watson spent hours on the phone over a six-month period with Newhouse, sharing his stories and his vision for the project, which is scheduled to include at least one more title.

They are based on Watson’s upbringing in Las Vegas, where he first experienced doubts for his NBA dream.

“These are true stories,” Watson said. “I made it to the NBA after growing up in the inner city and not having the same resources or same chances as some. Growing up, seeing graffiti, abandoned houses, drugs, gangs, it can be discouraging. But I had a great support system that kept me focused on my goal.”

The second book focuses on the time Watson received an F on a science project in school. But the teacher offered him a chance to re-do it, which taught him a valuable lesson.

“The second book talks about working hard and the importance of getting good grades to be able to play sports,” he said. “That was the important thing in my household. If we didn’t have good grades, my brother and I couldn’t play sports.”

Watson is the father of two children with one on the way. His parents, Cathy and Charles, stressed education and reading as they raised him and his brother. He majored in psychology at Tennessee, which is in his parents’ hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

“My parents came from an area more poverty-stricken than I did,” Watson said. “You always want better for your kid, right? We might not have lived in the best area, but they always put my brother and me in the best schools to give us the best chance to succeed.

“They also were big on me and my brother doing community service. We’d go feed the homeless. We’d go visit nursing homes to care for the elderly. When I was younger, I always said if I made it that I wanted to give back.”

Watson and his family established his Quiet Storm Foundation in 2009. That foundation established an active presence in Chicago during his two seasons with the Bulls.

Watson is eight years removed from that stint, where he played an important role for a reserve unit so potent that it achieved its own nickname. “The Bench Mob” proved a significant reason the Bulls led the NBA in regular-season victories in consecutive seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“It was definitely fun. It goes by fast. Chicago was probably some of the best years I had in the NBA,” Watson said. “We could’ve achieved more. We weren’t picked to do much that first year and surprised everybody. Then that second year, D-Rose got hurt.

“I felt like they should’ve kept the team together maybe a couple more years to try to see what could’ve happened. But it’s a business at the end of the day.”

Watson isn’t surprised Rose, who he backed up, is thriving again after a series of knee injuries, surgeries and rehabilitations.

“Definitely a great teammate, probably one of my favorites,” Watson said. “Injuries take a toll on you. He was held up to the MVP standard and some people judged him unfairly. But he has worked so hard. I’m definitely rooting for him and I’m always watching.”

Watson played for Charles Oakley’s team in the Big3 last summer, a 3-on-3 pro league that was canceled this summer because of COVID-19. He isn’t sure if he’ll play again if the league resumes next summer.

“It was fun. But it’s a different league. It’s pretty brutal. They don’t call any fouls. It’s kind of an old man’s game,” Watson said. “My body may have had enough.”

No matter his decision, Watson’s mind remains sharp.

“These books definitely are not a money maker. It’s a passion project,” Watson said. “Unless you’re a big-time children’s author, you probably won’t make a living at this. But I just did it to inspire kids and challenge myself. It’s kind of like the NBA. I never thought I’d make the NBA.  But lo and behold, I worked hard enough and got there.”

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Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Since going unselected in the 2017 NBA Draft, PJ Dozier has had his fair share of stops, from brief stints signed to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, to successive one-year pacts with the Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18) and Boston Celtics (2018-19). He spent most of the latter two tenures in the G League.

Dozier began the 2019-20 season signed to the Denver Nuggets on a two-way deal, but assigned to the Windy City Bulls, the Bulls' G League affiliate, along with 2019 second-round draftee of the Nuggets Bol Bol. 

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On Tuesday, the Nuggets officially announced they are converting Dozier's two-way deal into a multi-year contract with the team.

It's great news for Dozier, who enjoyed a dominating campaign for Windy City. In 18 games with the team, he averaged 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 43.8-32.6-74.1 shooting splits. A 6-foot-6 playmaking wing, Dozier flashed plus ball-handling, scoring and facilitating ability at a position of supreme value in the modern game.

He parlayed all of the above into a midseason All-NBA G League selection, but was recently left off the end-of-season all-league teams, presumably due to a limited sample size. He was called up to the Nuggets in mid-January and made an immediate impact, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 from 3) in his debut, a win over the Charlotte Hornets. He reset his NBA career high one week later with a 15-point outing against the Houston Rockets.

In the run-up to the NBA pausing its season, Dozier appeared in 21 of 26 games for the Nuggets, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He'd appeared in just eight career NBA games before that stretch. 

How much of an imprint will he make on the Nuggets' rotation when the NBA season restarts? It's too soon to say. But it seems the longtime G League standout's breakthrough at the next level could be coming.

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