Ben Gordon

Zach LaVine breaks Ben Gordon's single-season Bulls' 3-point record

Zach LaVine breaks Ben Gordon's single-season Bulls' 3-point record

Zach LaVine had never met Ben Gordon before the former Bull stopped by training camp last Fall.

The two offensive-minded players talked scoring and shooting and how Gordon’s game would fit seamlessly in today’s NBA.

Little did either person know that five months later, LaVine would break Gordon’s franchise record for most 3-pointers in a season. Heck, LaVine didn’t even know until an in-game announcement by the Bulls’ public address announcer.

“That’s dope. Its two different eras obviously. I feel like BG was an incredible 3-point shooter,” LaVine said. “It’s a credit to a lot of hard work I put into it. I’m going to continue to do my thing.”

For a change, LaVine spoke following a victory as the Bulls snapped their eight-game skid with a 126-117 triumph over the Wizards. LaVine posted his 18th 30-point game this season with 32 points, one shy of Coby White’s team-high total and nine more than Thad Young’s season-high 25 points.

Tomas Satoransky joined the fun with 15 points and 13 assists, one shy of his career-high. Yes, it was that kind of night — finally — for the Bulls.

“It feels good obviously,” LaVine said. “You get tired of losing.”

LaVine’s 3-point prowess improved to the point he participated in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend for the first time. His 38.2 percent shooting is above his career percentage and his eight attempts per game are a career-high by 1.4 per game.

“I think just the consistency of it,” LaVine said, when asked for what has pleased him most about his improvements from long-range. “You’re never going to be a dude where you hit all your shots. But being consistent, keeping your same routine, I think I’ve done a good job with that.”

That sounds a lot like Gordon, whose daily routine ran like clockwork. LaVine now has 177 3-pointers with 24 games remaining, four more than Gordon sank in 2008-09.

As for Satoransky, he rebounded from his worst game of the season on Saturday night versus the Suns with another strong performance against his former team. Satoransky, who failed to score on eight misses with three turnovers against Phoenix, averaged 17.3 points and 8 assists in his four games against the Wizards.

“I wish I could do that against other teams too,” Satoransky said, laughing. “It was a tough game (Saturday) for me, probably one of my worst in two years. I just wasn’t in the game at all. I was frustrated with myself. It’s good I can forget about it quickly.”

Even LaVine could forget about his nine turnovers, which raised his average this month to an unsightly 5.6 per game over seven February contests. LaVine committed four offensive fouls against the Wizards.

“I’m harder on myself for my turnovers when we lose,” LaVine said. “If I had 20 turnovers and we won, I could give a damn.”

Finally, the Bulls were in position to give a damn.

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Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley's path to the NBA was an intriguing one, a true story of perseverance featuring many twists and turns. For those who haven't closely followed Beverley's career, the Chicago native and current Los Angeles Clipper had a three-year career overseas before he really caught on in the NBA, landing a multi-year deal with the Houston Rockets in 2013. Before landing with the Rockets, Beverley played for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece), Spartak St. Petersburg (Russia) before landing in Houston.

But a lesser-known fact is that Beverley actually spent time practicing with the Bulls within the first two years of his overseas basketball career. 

On Saturday's episode of "The Woj Pod" hosted by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beverley discussed the importance of glue guys, Kris Dunn's season and much more. One of the more interesting tidbits was the aforementioned workouts with the Bulls. Beverley responded to a Woj question about if he could've played with the Bulls had things gone differently earlier in his career:

I worked in the summertime with the Bulls, I don't know, two-three years in a row, Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense...

Beverley elicited laughter from the crowd, but he is clearly (and some would say rightfully) still upset by those who didn't give him an opportunity along the way. He went on to say that there is a "dynamic that fans don't know" and "can only assume." In the interview, Beverley didn't give a specific year but he says "two-three years" and clearly states that Del Negro was the head coach, meaning that he likely scrimmaged with the Bulls at points during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

When you take a closer look at those rosters, the possible matchups Beverley had are incredibly interesting to think about. The 2009 Bulls had nine players scoring in double figures — and a 10th scoring 9.9 points per game in Kirk Hinrich — and the 2010 Bulls had six players scoring in double figures.

Beverley could have matched up against Larry Hughes (12.0 PPG in '09), John Salmons (career-high 18.3 PPG in '09), Ben Gordon (20.7 PPG in '09), or even Derrick Rose (18.7 PPG from 2008-10). Gordon and Rose, especially, could make any defender look bad on his best day, so maybe Del Negro's mistake wasn't as egregious as it appears now. Either way, Beverley certainly hasn't forgotten the slight. 

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'I feel very empowered': Former Bull Ben Gordon opens up about his struggles with mental health to try to help others

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Associated Press

'I feel very empowered': Former Bull Ben Gordon opens up about his struggles with mental health to try to help others

In some ways, as Ben Gordon splashed a three-pointer inside the Bulls’ practice facility recently, it felt like 2004 again.

At his playing weight of 198 pounds and with his chiseled torso, one could argue Gordon looked the part. The jumper was pure, too.

But the gray in Gordon’s goatee is one hint that his playing days are behind him — if the sight of his 8-year-old son merrily shooting at another basket hadn't already given it away.

And then Gordon speaks, calmly and matter-of-factly, his words jarring anyone strolling down memory lane back to reality.

“I remember being literally, like, suicidal at one point,” Gordon said. “Unless you’ve been through that, it’s a really strange place to be.”

Gordon visited many strange places as his 11-year NBA career came to an unceremonious end in 2015. He was waived by the Magic and Warriors. He was arrested three separate times in 2017. TMZ released a video of Gordon using threatening language to acquaintances he believed were stealing his business ideas. He was hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation following an incident (in which he was not charged) at a business he owned in New York.

In short, he was a long way from the calm, quiet force who made a career of rising to the occassion during the most chaotic moments. Still the only rookie in NBA history to win Sixth Man of the Year back in 2005, Gordon had descended into darkness.

“I’m not there anymore,” Gordon said. “Going to multiple professional therapists, I’ve resolved that. I’ve left that place.

“I learned to understand who I was as a failure. This was the first time in my life where I ever failed. I won a state championship in high school and college. I always had good fortune. I was skilled.

“Before therapy, I was difficult to be around. Some of my relationships were tarnished. Bridges were not burned, but damaged. I was in an unfamiliar place with myself. I finally said, ‘Don’t fight it. Learn about yourself in this space.’ And I learned a lot. I realized I was bulls****ing a lot about a lot of things. I learned to do the opposite of what I was doing.

“And where do you get the willpower to do that? I started to return to what made me me. Going to the gym every day. Getting shots up every day. Lifting weights every day. Doing things I’ve been doing my whole life. I was like, ‘Let me just start there.’”

So Gordon did. At a very unfamiliar 230 pounds, Gordon returned to the structured and disciplined lifestyle that defined his five years with the Bulls — a tenure that still resonates fondly with many fans.

“The more I did that, the more clarity I got,” he said. “My relationships started to get better. When you get depressed, it’s almost like you catch amnesia and you forget who you are and you become this new unfamiliar person to everybody.

“And I wasn’t depressed because I was an unhappy person. I was depressed because I had these great gifts. I put in all these hours of work. And now I can’t use it anywhere. That made me feel like, ‘Damn, what’s my purpose?’ I’m a very goal-oriented person. I didn’t have any goals. With no structure, I lost my control.”

As he shed pounds, Gordon’s identity started to return. Now 36 and with his legal issues quieted, he has started setting new workout challenges for himself. How much of his former athleticism could he regain? Could he windmill dunk again?

Throughout this process, Gordon visited his therapist weekly. He watched from afar as current NBA stars like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan publicly revealed their struggles with anxiety and depression. This week, Proviso West product and Timberwolves forward Robert Covington talked to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the value of therapy.

But even if mental health doesn't become as much a part of the discourse surrounding NBA as three-point shooting, Gordon is comfortable addressing the subject. In fact, he wants to find a documentary filmmaker to help him get his message of healing and recovery out to more people.

“I don’t understand why people feel embarrassed to talk about going through bad stuff. To me, I feel very empowered. I walk around with a sense of renewed personal strength,” Gordon said. “When my issues were in the media, some people would say, ‘Ah, look, Ben Gordon is going crazy. He’s broke. Ha, ha.’ Why is it so amusing when somebody is going through depression when it’s really a serious issue?

“I talk about my depression to people, and not to defend what I went through. I’m doing [it] to share what I’ve learned about the human mind and body when it’s stressed. I’m speaking from a place of experience. I’m very educated on the topic.

“That’s why I want to do a documentary where I’m talking about all my demons. I feel that would be therapeutic to certain people. I want to show people the fruits of the labor of figuring out a very difficult thing you’ve gone through. I didn’t cut corners in the healing aspect of what you have to go through to get back to being your normal self or a better version of yourself.”

Staying in this place is obviously Gordon’s goal. Before his ascent from such depths, Gordon didn’t necessarily view seeking professional help favorably.

“I was like many in the black community who were like, ‘Therapy? No, I’m not talking to anybody about my problems. I’m going to internalize it, be strong and do it myself.’ And I learned that type of attitude is only really good when you’re doing something competitively and trying to push yourself. You’re trying to create an edge so you create this thick skin,” Gordon said. “But when you need help, you need a professional. If you’re in therapy and in denial, you’re never going to get anything out of it because you’re not going to open up.

“I went through all these phases like, ‘I don’t want to go to therapy. OK, I’m in therapy. Oh, it’s not that bad. Oh, you know what? I like therapy now.’ What helped me is I started listening to what I was saying and I could really sort out my thoughts. Once I was able to do that, I was like, ‘Yo, BG, you have to be more accountable.’”

Gordon worked to restore personal relationships. He vowed to repair any damage done to his beloved hometown of Mount Vernon, NY, where he opened a holistic wellness center and sports rehabilitation facility that is now shuttered. Gordon has long given back to his community with free clinics, autograph sessions and barbecues. A playground is named after him there.

Gordon played 25 games with the Texas Legends of the G League in 2016-17. In a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago that lasted over an hour, he alternated between acceptance that his career is over and acknowledgement that the game has shifted to even more fully match his strengths of shotmaking and offensive flow.

“It’s a weird space to be in,” Gordon admitted. “I could be doing this but there’s not really a platform for me to do it. People ask about playing in the Big3. I don’t want to play 3-on-3 basketball. I didn’t work hard to do that. It’s like settling or being desperate. I can play in the Big3 when I’m 50.

“But I’m enjoying helping other players when I can. That’s more fulfilling than being desperate. I don’t miss the game in that way. I work out every day. I get my fix every day. If I make 10 threes in a row, that does something for my self-esteem. I feel good. I got better at something I love to do. That part is fulfilling.”

Even the fact Gordon visited the Advocate Center as a welcomed guest is a sign of progress. For many years, Gordon harbored some resentment towards the Bulls organization over how his contract negotiations led to a messy exit to the Pistons in 2009. With his son living in the area, he splits his time between Chicago, New York and California.

To keep busy outside of parenthood, Gordon works out and trains those who ask him to, and is happy to share his knowledge. He talks about possibly getting into coaching in a player development role or reviving his rehabilitation center in Mount Vernon.

For now, his life has returned to calmness.

“I’ve become more comfortable not being wanted by an NBA team. I’m at peace with my career,” Gordon said. “The reason why I wasn’t around the last two years is I couldn’t be in this environment. That would trigger me. But now I’m at a point where I resolved so many things and changed my perspective on so many things that nothing bothers me anymore. I know what my triggers are now.

“I’m how I always was, peaceful and focused. My son sees it the most. My Mom sees it the most. I’m able to pour into players I work with because I’ve done what I needed to do. I couldn’t help players before because I wasn’t myself. Just being through all that stuff and proving to yourself you can overcome it, it’s empowering. I feel great.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support for people in distress. If you or anyone you know is ever in need, their number is 1-800-273-8255.

HeadStrong: Mental Health in Sports will premiere right here on NBC Sports Chicago on November 9th, immediately following Blackhawks PostGame Live. It’s all part of a month-long campaign this network is undertaking for the month of November in partnership with the “Movember” foundation to bring attention to men’s health issues.  

Though men are certainly not alone in struggling with mental health, men are three-to-five times more likely to commit suicide than women. Watch for HeadStrong and a compelling series of more than thirty digital shorts in November.

Go to www.nbcsports.com/headstrong for a special extended version of this trailer and more information on times and airdates.

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.