Bulls

Zach LaVine not daunted by chasing ‘Black Jesus’

Zach LaVine not daunted by chasing ‘Black Jesus’

The statue doesn’t sit out front of the United Center anymore, but the statute remains the same for any player good enough to be on the marquee for the Chicago Bulls.

Zach LaVine, while awed by the specter of Michael Jordan, isn’t spooked by chasing a ghost. Weeks away from a debut as a Bull—returning from ACL surgery—LaVine is aware of the standard set by the man who called himself “Black Jesus”.

“Black Jesus played here for so long. I’m not putting myself in that category,” LaVine said, unaware Jordan gave himself that nickname as a young player in Chicago. “He lived up to it. They (fans) want to get back to that pinnacle.”

He hears the hopes and wishes of fans when he walks off the United Center floor two hours before every home game after getting shots up as part of his rehab. LaVine knows what’s expected from him—what’s more, he expects that from himself.

He’s a two-time slam dunk champion, certainly, but the Seattle area native wants to be known as a complete player, someone a franchise can build around.

And if it’s Black Jesus’ franchise, so be it.

“You try not to let it mess with you,” LaVine said. “I feel like I’m strong minded, I’m confident in myself. Everybody is gonna have their own opinions. All that matters is how you feel about yourself.”

Not that he’s not holding himself to the standard set by the standard bearer himself, but he’s aware the responsibility that comes with playing at Jordan’s position for a franchise still largely synonymous with Jordan—even though this spring will mark 20 years since Jordan actually wore Bulls red.

“No one’s trying to compare you to him, that’s out there,” LaVine said. “You’re just trying to be the best you, coming into this situation. You have the opportunity to be the face of the franchise. To be that guy. You want to embrace that. You want everybody to know you’re prepared and capable of doing that.”

Simply being identified as a player a franchise will commit to building around as opposed to the third wheel, as he was believed to be in Minnesota behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, is warming for him.

Derrick Rose believed he was up for the challenge until his body betrayed him. Jimmy Butler wanted it, but the Bulls thought otherwise leading to the chain of events that brought LaVine to Chicago.

In the first season of a full-fledged rebuild, LaVine knows the prevailing belief is that the next franchise carrier is more likely in the coming draft than on the Bulls roster.

“People gonna put a name on everything. I’m gonna hoop, do what I do,” LaVine said. “I know I’m talented, I think the Bulls organization knows I’m talented. Whatever we do with the pick or free agency, that’s their side of basketball operations. I’m gonna do what I do. I put in the work.”

He’ll return to full contact practice next week and if one had to guess, finally be introduced as an active player in the middle of December once he works the kinks out and gains confidence in taking real contact.

But then again, confidence has never been a problem for LaVine. Whether it was instilled in him by a vocal father who had him chart every shot he took as a high schooler or simply innate, LaVine isn’t shying away from the challenge.

“He had a plan, for sure,” LaVine said of his father, Paul, who once played linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. “I have binders of shots. I was doing workouts the day before games. I was doing professional workouts before (college). I embraced being a hard worker.”

Whether it’s the rehab or a road that’s had plenty of twists and turns for him to be 22, he’s experienced enough not to be naïve but young enough to have admirable wide-eyed optimism.

“You put in that much hard work, it can’t fail. It can’t.”

Cristiano Felicio suffers broken right wrist after fall in practice

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USA Today

Cristiano Felicio suffers broken right wrist after fall in practice

Cristiano Felicio, who has yet to land on the active roster this season, broke his right wrist after falling in Monday's practice, according to coach Jim Boylen. The Bulls' coach said Felicio will miss four to eight weeks with the injury.

"We had the X-ray. It did not show up on the X-ray. Then we had the CT scan and it showed up on the CT scan," Boylen said. "We're going to do an MRI (Wednesday) just to let them give us a little more certainty on maybe how much separation there is in there and how much time it will be."

Felicio is in the third season of a four-year $32 million deal. He has played sparingly the past two seasons. Boylen said Felicio told him he didn't think anything of the initial pain from the fall but it started throbbing overnight.

"I'm very disappointed for him," Boylen said. "Hopefully we can get him back soon." 

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Bobby Portis won't call it a revenge game, but Wendell Carter Jr. still says 'I'm not going to have it'

Bobby Portis won't call it a revenge game, but Wendell Carter Jr. still says 'I'm not going to have it'

Bobby Portis made a strong statement against the Bulls on Oct. 28 with 28 points, including 11 in the final seven minutes of a Knicks win.

If Wendell Carter Jr. can back up his words, it won’t happen again.

“We’re not letting that happen,” Carter said on Monday. “Bobby’s going to come on and want to put on a show. I’m not going to have it. I hope he watches this. I ain’t having that.”


Turns out Portis did watch that. Portis talked to reporters Tuesday at the United Center at shootaround and wasn’t getting sucked into a war of words with his former teammate.

“I saw that video,” Portis said with a smile. “It was kind of funny at the same time. But you know that’s my guy. I was with him when he first came into the league last year. We were best of friends. Me, him and Antonio Blakeney, all of us were like a little trio that we all hung out each and every day off the court and all that. I think it’s kind of cool to see his progression this year. He’s been having a monster year, getting double-doubles every game.”

So Portis elected not to take the bait and talk back to Carter. Even Carter admitted the two are still friends after he made his declaration on Monday.

This isn’t turning into a heated personal rivalry by any stretch and Portis wouldn’t call games against the Bulls “revenge games.” That said, he knows exactly how many times he’s faced the Bulls since he was traded away.

Portis played the Bulls three times with the Wizards after being traded in February. The Bulls-Knicks game earlier this season made it four games against the Bulls. He has three double-doubles and is averaging 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in those games.

“I don’t look at it as a revenge game,” Portis said. “I look at it as us as a team trying to come in here and just try to steal one on the road. We need it in the worst way.”

As if Portis didn’t get a bit extra attention against his former team as it was, now eyes will be on Carter and Portis to see how they react after talking through the media.

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