Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine on the young Bulls, expectations for the new season and more

Following a breakout year with the Chicago Bulls, Zach LaVine talked about his preparation for the upcoming season, the team’s young core and more.

CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, has partnered up with the NBA Players Association to select four NBA players (Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat, Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Phoenix Suns and Seth Curry of the Dallas Mavericks) and retiree Chris Bosh for the “Call Your Shot” campaign.

The players were chosen based on their personalities and on-court play style that would help bring the campaign to life as they help talk about the way car buying should be. Each player, as well as some group video action, will be featured in a series of social media vignettes that will kick-off at the start of the season in October and run through end of year. Fans will be able to see the videos via CarMax’s Instagram channel as well as view teasers from the players as the content goes live.

Following a career year with the Chicago Bulls, shooting guard Zach LaVine will be looking to build on his breakout season in 2019-20 with a young supporting cast. I had the chance to talk with LaVine about his summer preparation, the Bulls’ young core, the new arrivals in Chicago, expectations for the upcoming season and, of course, his thoughts on double-teams in pickup.

Gerald Bourguet: For starters, can you tell me a little bit about this collaboration you’re doing with CarMax?

Zach LaVine: Yeah, we’re really having a good time. The purpose we have right now is just how easy the car-buying process is and the excitement they have about bringing the customer in and going through the process with them. I’m a big car guy so it’s kind of a cool collaboration. They’re bringing a little bit of the NBA side to it, giving me a little bit of an acting role. [Laughs.] So it’s been really fun.

Bourguet: So aside from a bit of acting, what else have you been up to this summer?

LaVine: Been working out a lot. I take the offseason really serious so I’ve been in the gym working on my body. And enjoying it as well, enjoying the little things. I had a vacation with my family in France. After the season I went to Aruba and then in about two days I’m going to the Bahamas for my last little trip before we start up training camp and stuff like that.

Bourguet: Going back to working in the gym, is there anything specific that you’ve been working on this summer?

LaVine: I mean, each year when you go into the offseason, you pick apart what you did good and what you did bad. A lot of people try to focus on the bad and I try to focus on the good, because once you become that elite player and work on those skill-sets that you’re already good at, that’s how I feel like you progress even more. But then you do also work on your deficits as well, so I took all those into consideration. I feel like the biggest thing for me was I have to stay healthy, obviously. If you’re on the court, you’re more of an asset to your team, you can help them win. I had some injury trouble with my ACL tear that one year so I have to keep my legs strong. Other than that, just trying to stay healthy and continue to do the things I was doing out there last year.

Bourguet: Speaking more about that health factor, obviously it wasn’t a major injury for you down the stretch last year, but was it disappointing to be shut down for the remainder of the season in that last month? And how are you feeling now?

LaVine: Yeah, I mean that’s tough, man. It’s all a little bit of a good and a bad thing because you always want to look out for your health and the team is a business at the end of the day too, but we’re very competitive. But I’m good, I’m healthy, I’m ready to start the season. I want to play all 82 next year — actually, I wanna play more than 82, 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.

Bourguet: You guys have a young core but also added a few vets this summer. Do you feel like the Bulls are being slept on in that playoff conversation out East?

LaVine: I mean, of course, but I feel like that’s the way it has to be though. You know, until you show the caliber of play that you guys are capable of, you’re going to get slept on. It’s all speculation anyway for people judging that, so I feel like it’s a good thing. You go in there with a chip on your shoulder. It’s always good to surprise people.

Bourguet: You and Otto Porter only got to play 15 or so games together, but what does he bring to the table and what do you see as far as your games meshing together on the wing?

LaVine: Otto’s a great support player, man, he does everything the team asks. He’s somebody that can guard multiple positions and score the ball in different ways. When he was in Washington, I feel like me and him had a little bit of the same situation where he was in the corner a little bit and that was his role, to shoot 3s and play defense, and they didn’t get to see his whole game — somewhat how I was in Minnesota. I was still able to show my scoring and stuff like that, but then you go to a team that lets you open up your game a little more, show pretty much all of what you can do. He brings a lot to the table.

Bourguet: Which young player on the roster are you excited to see take another step forward next season?

LaVine: Wendell Carter, because he wasn’t able to get his full rookie year up under him. He was starting to get into a groove when he got injured man, that’s one of the worst things in all of sports. It’s upsetting, but he’s been in the gym working all year. He has great defensive intangibles as a rookie, especially for a big guy as a rookie. I feel like it’s always tougher for them, but he’s shown different little flashes to where he’s seemed above his experience level, so I’m really excited for him.

Bourguet: You guys also added Thad Young over the summer…

LaVine: Yeah, that’s my guy.

Bourguet: What kind of impact can he have as that stabilizing veteran presence for a young group?

LaVine: It’s always good to have somebody like that on a team that’s been through it and been in playoff situations and the places we’re trying to go. He’s a big team-oriented guy, uses his voice and is vocal. I feel like he’ll be really big in training camp for us, to be able to hear another voice that is respected throughout the league.

Bourguet: So NBA Twitter is pretty dry in August. That whole double-teaming in pickup thing that went viral…

LaVine: Mmhmm.

Bourguet: Do you have a take on that subject?

LaVine: It’s like you said, it’s so dry you just almost need to find something. Social media man, it’s so big now they just find something to talk about. From my perspective, it just looked like Devin Booker was killing at open gym and they didn’t want him to score the last point. Obviously the team is going to do whatever they have to do. You can see it from both perspectives. Booker’s trying to work on his game and work on moves, I feel like that’s what the offseason’s for, but the other team is trying not to let him score. So I really don’t get how or why it was such a big deal at all, it was just, like, talking back and forth. But that’s NBA Twitter, it’s the social media era man. People gotta deal with that. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is.

Bourguet: The other viral debate I gotta get your take on is the Great Chicken Sandwich Wars that have been going on. You got a favorite out of this Popeye’s-Chick Fil-A-Wendy’s beef?

LaVine: I’m a big Chick Fil-A guy, but I haven’t had the Popeye’s chicken sandwich yet so I have to try that. [Laughs.] I really do, ‘cuz I heard it was incredible.

Bourguet: It’s no joke.

LaVine: There’s a Popeye’s in Chicago, I’ll have to have it on one of my cheat days.

Next: 30 best shots in NBA playoff history

Bourguet: Last one, heading into a new season and coming off a breakout year, what’s one aspect of your game that you feel like people are sleeping on a little bit?

LaVine: Probably my playmaking ability. I feel like everybody knows I can score and put up big numbers, but I feel like 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 and can make some turnovers, but I feel like those aggressive plays sometimes help your team out. Always, the league leader in assists have a lot of turnovers. As long as they’re aggressive, those are okay, but with my playmaking, I feel like I can take another jump this year. I have the ball in my hand a lot. I want to be able to play off the ball and get some easy points as well, but I’ve definitely been focused on my playmaking and being able to draw that double-team or create a line where I can get to the hole when I need to and then kick it out or drop it off to get easier looks for my teammates.

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