LaVine, Beal ready to square off after all-star snub
On a Tuesday night in the nation's capital, the Bulls will participate in the consolation all-star game.
Zach LaVine and Washington's Bradley Beal - arguably the two biggest snubs from the Eastern Conference squad - will square off in the Bulls' last game before the break. Maybe they can get Phoenix guard Devin Booker on Facetime to round out the snub squad.
LaVine was disappointed to be left off the all-star team, especially since the game will be played in Chicago. But Beal has a better argument. He was the NBA's fifth-leading scorer as of Monday morning at 29.1 points per game. LaVine ranked 11th with 25.0 points.
"I'm a little (ticked) about it," Beal said after the all-star reserves were announced. "I was kind of expecting it, honestly. It's disrespectful, but the real ones know, so I'm just going to keep competing and I'm going to try to get my team to the playoffs."
Tuesday's game will be a battle for ninth place in the East, so it looks like Beal might have been serious about aiming for the final playoff spot.
Beal and LaVine are at different points in their career. Beal, 26, has been an all-star twice before and reached the second round of the playoffs three times. The Wizards are hoping for a return to prominence when point guard John Wall returns from an Achilles tear, probably next season.
LaVine, 24, has never been to the playoffs or the All-Star Game. He's been toiling away as the best thing the Bulls have going this season without much to show for it beyond individual stats.
With Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Wendell Carter Jr., and former Wizards forward Otto Porter all out with injuries, LaVine has dealt with being the overwhelming focal point of the opposing defense.
But LaVine was able to snap out of a mini-slump with 32 points and 8 assists at Philadelphia on Sunday. The performance also included a season-high 9 turnovers, but was still impressive because he fought through a stiff neck and was questionable to play right up until game time.
"I train for this," LaVine told reporters after the contest. "My body is OK. I feel I'm the type of dude who can deal with it. I'm going to go out there and fight for my team. I don't care if it's one versus 100, I'm going to go out there swinging, get my punches in.
"That's why I wanted to play through this injury. To let them know I'm not just going to go out there and not help."
The Bulls managed to stay competitive against the 76ers, owners of the best home record in the NBA. The score was tied heading into the fourth quarter and the Bulls trailed by five with just over a minute left.
LaVine has said after missing nearly a year with a torn ACL in 2017, his goal is to never miss any games. He, Tomas Satoransky and Coby White are the only Bulls to play in every game this season.
"I love basketball," LaVine said. "I'm going to go out there and play if I can. Before I got a couple of massages I was, 'Ah, I don't know about this.' I was moving like a robot."
Coach Jim Boylen shared that LaVine was the only player to visit the arena on Sunday morning to get some shots up. The Bulls did not have a formal shootaround.
"If I could take 200 (shots in the morning), I'll be all right in the game to take 20," he said.
LaVine dreamed of doing two contests and playing in the All-Star Game this weekend at the United Center. He'll settle for the 3-point contest. Beal isn't on the docket to do anything, but Wizards teammate Davis Bertans will be one of LaVine's challengers in the 3-point contest.
"If I'm injured, I'm injured. I'm not going to out (and hurt) myself or my team," LaVine said. "But if I can go out there and help and I know what I can do, I'm going to be out there. I'm not going to take games off."
Bulls game day
Bulls vs. Washington Wizards, 6 p.m. Tuesday at Capital One Arena
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Wizards (18-33) passed the Bulls for ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings last week. Washington has gotten healthier and won three of its last five. ... SG Bradley Beal has one of the highest scoring averages to ever be left off the All-Star roster at 29.1 ppg. SF Davis Bertans is next on the scoring list at 15.1 ppg and will be in the 3-point contest this weekend, while rookie PF Rui Hachimura (13.9) returned last week after missing 23 games with a groin injury. ... The Bulls are 2-0 against the Wizards this season, winning at Washington 110-109 in overtime Dec. 18. Hachimura and PF Mo Wagner (11.5 ppg) have yet to play against the Bulls this season. ... Former Minnesota PG Shabazz Napier was added in a trade last week.
Next: Charlotte Hornets, 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at the United Center
- Mike McGraw