Bulls

Zach LaVine is ready to take the next step: 'I don’t wanna go home in April'

zachlavine.png
USA TODAY

Zach LaVine is ready to take the next step: 'I don’t wanna go home in April'

After five seasons of great individual stats and little team success, Zach LaVine suggests that he is ready to change the narrative surrounding him.

“I don’t wanna go home in April. I’ve been in the NBA for five years now going on six. I’ve had some big nights in the NBA, but I haven’t played in a playoff game. I’m looking forward to trying to compete for those,” said LaVine in a recent interview with Gerald Bourguet.

Over a five-year NBA career, LaVine has racked up 4,710 points and plenty of clutch moments but is still searching for his first taste of postseason action. 


Many Vegas win projections have the Bulls pegged for a win total in the low 30s, so a playoff appearance would be mildly surprising. But the general NBA public is a bit higher on the Bulls after the acquisitions of veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, as well as stretch-five Luke Kornet to aid Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and LaVine in their quest to bring the Bulls back to the postseason. 

Between those roster additions and a new-look coaching staff, the Bulls should look forward to a much better season but even they know health will affect their ability to stay afloat in a drastically changed Eastern Conference, something LaVine touched on in Monday’s interview, “I’m healthy, I’m ready to start the season. I want to play all 82 next year.”

Many expect LaVine to take an All-Star leap in 2020 with the festivities taking place in Chicago and with the 24-year old guard poised to again lead the Bulls in scoring.

Even if LaVine is to improve on his 23.7 points per game scoring average, he is fully aware that his defense and playmaking are the areas he will need to improve in to truly change public perception.

“I feel like everybody knows I can score and put up big numbers, but...I’m able to create plays off of breaking down the defense for others. I gotta work on my turnovers, I try to make some risky passes where you get a little bit of tunnel vision...but I feel like those aggressive plays sometimes help your team out.”

Kicking up the aggressiveness a notch while also focusing on setting up others is the recipe for success for LaVine in 2020 and likely is music to Bulls head coach Jim Boylen’s ears. And it just happens to be the easiest path to success for the Bulls in the 2019-20 season, and thankfully, all parties appear to be on the same page as we head into a pivotal year for the franchise.

What to watch for: Bulls face off with Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers

usatsi_13773436.jpg
USA Today

What to watch for: Bulls face off with Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers

The Bulls look to bounce back against one of the league's best in the Clippers, tonight. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

Clippers’ last five (4-1)

  • Dec. 13 — W at Timberwolves: 124-117

  • Dec. 11 — W at Raptors: 112-92

  • Dec. 9 — W at Pacers: 110-99

  • Dec. 8 — W at Wizards: 135-119

  • Dec. 6 — L at Bucks: 119-91

Storyline(s) for each team

The Clippers come into this game with perhaps the deepest roster in the NBA — they have everything from top-tier star talent (Kawhi Leonard, Paul George), to specialized secondary options (Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly), to sparkplug role players (Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell, Mo Harkless, etc.) They’re 20-7 and own the second-best record in the Western Conference.

Like the Bulls, the Clippers are on the second night of a back-to-back (and the last night of a six-game road trip), so that full assortment of players won’t be in action. Leonard and Shamet have both already been ruled out. Williams and Beverly are questionable, but neither played the team’s game last night in Minnesota.

Whatever squad they field will likely still have an edge over the Bulls, who shot a paltry 27-for-90 from the field in an 83-73 loss to the Hornets last night. Jim Boylen was satisfied with the team’s defensive effort after that contest, but against the sixth-rated defense in the NBA, a markedly better offensive showing will be required to stay competitive, tonight. Even without their full cast of characters, stealing this one would represent the Bulls’ best win of the season (for what it’s worth, not a compliment).

Player to watch: Paul George

George is set to suit up, and he’s a must-watch whenever he comes to town. Last night, him and Leonard combined to drop 88 points on the Timberwolves. It looked like a lot of fun:

 

Bulls fans are familiar with George’s exploits from his time with the Pacers, and he’s only leveled up further since leaving Indiana. Coming off a career year in Oklahoma City in which he finished third in MVP voting, he’s currently averaging 24.6 points on 39.9% 3-point shooting (10.2 attempts), and remains one of the preeminent wing defenders in the league. 

The Bulls haven’t had their lack of wing depth truly exposed by a team in a while. Unless Kris Dunn has an all-time defensive performance in him, the Clippers are about as safe a bet as any to exploit that mismatch.

Matchup to watch: Frontcourt rotations

Jim Boylen’s rotations have been scattershot all season, but in the wake of Thad Young requesting more minutes earlier this week, we reached peak randomness last night.  Franchise cornerstone Lauri Markkanen played 25 minutes, 34 seconds and at one point sat for nearly 15 consecutive game minutes. Young played 26 minutes, 33 seconds, Wendell Carter 23 minutes, 35 seconds and Daniel Gafford 20 minutes, 18 seconds. 

Boylen has often insisted that his goal is to win games while simultaneously developing all the players on his team, and all things considered, the Bulls have a pretty talented frontcourt rotation. But it’s unclear if their minutes being divvied up on a night-to-night basis (and seemingly on-the-fly) is consistent with either of those stated missions.

Against a dynamic Clippers frontcourt tonight, this is worth monitoring. Expect more juggling to ensue.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls only score 73 points in loss to Charlotte

bulls_outsiders_podcast_website_listen_now.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls only score 73 points in loss to Charlotte

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 83-73 loss to the Hornets.

0:30 - Will Perdue makes a cameo to start the show

1:00 - On only scoring 73 points

4:55 - Is this loss worse than the Celtics loss last season?

6:30 - Viewer comments on the loss and shooting too many threes

8:00 - Discussion on Thad Young minutes vs Lauri Markkanen minutes

12:10 - Viewer comment asking what would the Outsiders say if head coach

15:05 - Viewer comment on Tomas Satoransky

17:20 - Viewer trade idea for Terrance Ross

20:25 - Viewer comment on Coby White struggling

21:25 - Viewer comment on Kris Dunn starting

23:50 - Our ideas for other ‘theme’ nights for Bulls games

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe: