Zach LaVine, a Bothell High School graduate who was traded by Minnesota last week, unquestionably is the focal point of the Chicago Bulls’ rebuilding effort.
CHICAGO – A mere 20 months old when “Space Jam” entered theatres in November 1996, Zach LaVine made up for lost time throughout his childhood, devouring the movie in repeated viewings.
“I know everything about Michael Jordan,” said LaVine, a Bothell High School graduate who was traded by Minnesota to the Chicago Bulls last week. “It’s a great opportunity and humbling and satisfying to be here in these colors and in this city.”
Two-time NBA slam-dunk champion or not, nobody is expecting the 22-year-old LaVine to be the next Jordan. But he unquestionably is the focal point of the Bulls’ rebuild, taking center stage Tuesday even as he sat stage left on a crowded dais alongside team executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, coach Fred Hoiberg, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. The latter two represented the two other pieces acquired by Chicago in Thursday’s trade that sent All-Star Jimmy Butler and rookie Justin Patton to the Timberwolves.
LaVine was enjoying a breakout season with the Timberwolves when he tore his left ACL in February, averaging 18.9 points despite being the third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. He acknowledged the injury typically takes nine to 12 months to return from and said he is ahead of schedule but will be “safe,” which jibes with the Bulls’ change of direction to rebuilding.
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“I’m attacking this injury like I do everything in life, working my butt off for it every day,” the personable LaVine said. “I feel like with my ability, I’m able to come back early. But I really haven’t set a timetable for that. I’m very confident that I’ll come back better. This has given me time to work on my mental game, my strength and learn the game more….