ZachSnubbed
The best we have. Photo from chicagobulls.com

Zach LaVine scored 41 points last night against the Washington Wizards. 41 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, that was his line. Pretty spectacular stuff. Zach has had a number of games like last night over the course of his career in Chicago. He has scored 40 or more points in a single game 8 times with the Bulls, 4 of those games have happened this season. 6 of the 8 games in which Zach has scored over 40 points have resulted in wins for the Bulls.

I can only imagine that operating in the shadows must be frustrating for LaVine, and he is operating in near blackout conditions here in Chicago. He is putting forth some of the most amazing on-the-court efforts this franchise has ever seen, but we fans are immune to it. Younger fans pine for Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, older fans, like yours truly, reminisce about MJ* and the Glory Days. But memory is often filtered by rose colored lenses. Did you know, Derrick Rose only scored more than 40 points twice for the Bulls? All that great talent and only two 40+ point efforts. Jimmy Butler did it 8 times with the exact same 6 of 8 record that LaVine has posted. The truth is, we have greatness in our midst and we fans can’t even see it.

Over the last couple of weeks a small debate has raged through Bulls fandom, and the NBA in general, revolving around a seemingly simple question, was Zach LaVine unfairly left off the All-Star roster? The answer, at the questions most basic understanding, is no. No, Zach LaVine does not deserve to be on the All-Star roster, he wasn’t picked by the coaches, he wasn’t voted in by his fellow players, and the fans of Chicago, while we keep re-electing corrupt Alderman to run our city, we failed to stuff the ballot box on Zach’s behalf.

Making the All-Star team is a popularity contest. All it takes to get on a roster is enough support from an ardent fan base and you’re in. Chicago is a city with a long and proud history of voting “Our Guys” onto All-Star rosters. White Sox fans made the effort and voted A.J. Pierzynski and Scott Podsednik All-Stars. Blackhawk fans have voted in players like Corey Crawford and Brent Seabrook. Bulls fans have gotten Loul Deng onto two NBA All-Star rosters, and yet Zach LaVine, one of the greatest scorers since the Glory Days, still languishes without an appearance.

“He’s not a winner.” People whine. “He’s too selfish.” Another excuse. “He doesn’t play defense.” Neither does the rest of this sorry ass Bulls team.

The truth is Zach LaVine is a winner, and he needs to be selfish in order for the Bulls to win, especially with the scrub roster he is playing with. LaVine has scored 30 or more points in 29 games for the Bulls, they are 15-14 in those games. That’s a .517 winning percentage, which is good enough for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season. Let the beast feed.

If you’re worried about Zach LaVine’s defense, he is currently 10th in the NBA in steals with 79. His defensive win share this season is the highest it’s ever been in his career, a modest 2.0, but it’s climbing and that’s all that counts. He has been active and engaged while off-the-ball, still prone to losing his man, but much less so than in previous years. While on-ball, Zach has been impressive, able to stay in front of any ball-handler and capable of forcing turnovers (Which someone seriously needs to start charting. I can’t find a forced turnover statistic anywhere on the interwebs).

Zach LaVine should be an All-Star.

His numbers are meaningless. The wins and losses are meaningless. All it takes is enough votes.

How Chicago fans have not embraced this man, his constant drive for greatness, the work he puts in to improve every aspect of his game (including defense), I can’t explain or understand it. He is a two time Dunk Contest Champion, and, God willing, after this weekend he could become the only player in NBA history to have won both a Dunk Contest and a Three Point Contest.

Zach LaVine is a special player, the kind that doesn’t come along very often.

And Chicago has failed Zach LaVine.

We Bulls fans have failed Zach LaVine in ways we never failed Jimmy Butler or Derrick Rose.

It’s up to us to embrace Zach as one of Our Guys. It’s up to us to change the narrative of who he is and what he’s about. It’s up to us to stop casting shadows on one of the best players in all of Bulls history. It’s up to us to vote Zach LaVine onto the next All-Star roster.

I’ve been very critical of LaVine in the past. I’ve said all of those misinformed quotes from above at some point in the last 3 seasons. I’ve looked around the league and thought about what we could get for Zach in a trade. I’ve done all of those things, and so I am complicit in the failure of this city and the fan base at large.

But I won’t be anymore.

Zach LaVine is a very good basketball player. He is the best the Bulls have. He continues to grow better every year. He works extremely hard to improve himself. He has the drive and spirit of an alpha dog competitor. He loves challenges and doesn’t shrink from big moments. He is still two years away from his prime. It’s time Chicago, and Bulls fans everywhere, embrace Zach LaVine and start changing the narrative.

Zach LaVine is a winner, and he can make the Bulls winners again too.

Until he does, thanks for reading and GO ZACH LAVINE!

 

 

* For the record, MJ had 165 games in which he scored 40 or more points for the Bulls, they don’t call them the Glory Days for nothing.