Chicago Bulls' LaVine named Eastern Conference all-star
There were plenty of rainy days when Zach LaVine started playing basketball.
That's not a metaphor. He's from Seattle, so it literally rained on him a lot when he was trying to shoot baskets.
"It's rainy out there all the time. It might not be negative degrees like it is here in Chicago, but it's not 75 and sunny," LaVine said. "Put the gloves on, and you've still got to go out there and shoot, man. It's something that I look back on now, and you get very appreciative of it."
Especially now that his long climb in the sport resulted in his first NBA All-Star Game selection. LaVine was announced as one of the seven Eastern Conference reserves Tuesday, joining Brooklyn's James Harden, Boston's Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, New York's Julius Randle. Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Orlando Nikola Vucevic.
The Western Conference reserves include Utah's Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Portland's Damian Lillard, the Lakers' Anthony Davis, the Clippers' Paul George, Phoenix's Chris Paul and New Orleans' Zion Williamson. The rescheduled All-Star Game is set for March 7 in Atlanta.
Before talking with reporters on a Zoom call, LaVine said his fiancee pranked him with a fake media call. But instead of the Bulls' beat reporters he was expecting, it was his friends and family calling to congratulate him on the honor.
"It was great. I was more happy for that, the excitement that they had, than my own excitement," LaVine said. "Seeing the look on their faces. (Mom and dad) get to go and enjoy the festivities. They enjoyed me going there as a young guy, going and winning the dunk contest, and it was incredible, so now they get to go with me as an all-star."
LaVine, 25, is in his seventh NBA season. He's averaging career highs with 28.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, a .518 field-goal percentage and .434 3-point percentage.
After getting the all-star news, he took some time to reflect on how it all began. These days, he spends his summers working out at his parent's house in Washington, which is surrounded by pine trees and features an obstacle course of workout activities. When he first picked up a basketball, things were a little different.
"I moved in with my grandma when I was really young and that's where we lived," he said. "And then my dad, from the Goodwill, he went and bought one of those flimsy hoops and eventually it broke down. So then he ended up nailing a hoop to a tree. He measured it out, put it on some two-by-fours, 10 feet (high). And that's what I would shoot on."
LaVine mentions his dad frequently. The two have had a close relationship, from the time he started playing to the current NBA summers using the workout equipment his dad put together.
"He always pushed. He was on me, making sure I was always going out there," LaVine said. "He wanted to try to treat me like a pro, so we were shooting before I played in AAU games and things like that. I came back afterward and got more shots up. I had to write down every time how many shots I took. I had to write it down in a notebook, the workout I did.
"The thing I started to realize is he can't want it more than me. For kids out there that want it and their parents are trying obviously push them, I came to the realization that I have to want this more than him. It was a connection that we had, and once I got that, I think I took off."
A surprising omission to the Eastern Conference all-star team was former Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. He missed 12 games this season but also carried Miami to the NBA Finals last fall in the Orlando bubble.
The Bulls acquired LaVine in 2017 from Minnesota, along with Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, in a trade for Butler. He was the Bulls' last all-star, making it three years in a row from 2015-17.
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