LaVine and DeRozan Represent, MJ and LeBron’s Moment, and Other Bulls Bullets

If the Bulls were to finally have another All-Star duo, it had to be Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

To reiterate a point I made in Sunday night’s All-Star pre-game post: These two players represent why and how the Chicago Bulls have become the organization we see near the top of the East today. LaVine arrived in 2017 with an unwavering commitment. Despite the organization spiraling over the next several seasons, he welcomed an opportunity to be the face of the franchise and coupled that responsibility with constant improvement. LaVine is the one to fight through the dust, and if he took any shortcuts to land on his winning feet, the Bulls would surely be behind their current standing.

DeRozan was the one who took a chance. It might be true he considered LA before the Lakers ding-dong-ditched him this summer, but the veteran forward still had a choice. DeRozan did not have to come to a franchise with four-straight losing seasons. DeRozan did not have to buy into an unproven nucleus around LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. But DeRozan did just that. As a team that has become somewhat known locally as a painfully underwhelming free-agent destination, DeRozan has helped adjust that image. With 38 wins under his belt and an MVP campaign sparkling around his neck, DeRozan has reminded everyone how great Chicago basketball can be.

•   The All-Star Game made the respect this league has for LaVine and DeRozan very clear. Both players were tagged to close out the competitive 4th quarter of last night’s showdown. Even better, the two traded some clutch buckets to keep their respective team within striking distance of the Elam Ending. I know we’re talking about a meaningless game where defense is as rare as sunglasses-less Dennis Rodman, but performing on this big stage matters. Seeing these two alongside some of the biggest names in the NBA speaks volumes about the kind of talent that now resides in Chicago.

•   We didn’t get many possessions of 1-on-1 action between LaVine and DeRozan, but the few we did get left a smile on my face. LaVine hit a step-back 3 on his teammate early in the game while DeRozan saw his shot attempt go in and out of the basket. While LaVine’s team ended up losing the game, he took that as a victory:

“We said we were gonna get our little 1-on-1 game in,” LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer. “I made my shot, he missed his. I’m up one… He won the game, but I won the 1-on-1 series.”

•   All things considered, I have very much enjoyed the past few All-Star games. Not only do I find a lot of the recent talent to be naturally competitive, but the Elam Ending has made a significant difference since it’s been implemented. An All-Star Game should feature those half-court shot-attempts, ill-advised passes, and uncontested dunks, but we also crave at least a somewhat competitive contest. The 4th quarter provides enough of that to leave me satisfied.

•   The whole Zach LaVine knee situation remains a bit foggy long-term, but the 2x All-Star did look back to his former self in last night’s performance. When a pass flew his way for a wide-open dunk in transition, LaVine didn’t just go for the easy two-handed slam, he gave the fans a dunk that proved to be better than anything we saw Saturday night:

•   When asked about his knee after the game, LaVine seemed to think that dunk answered the question for him.

•   The LaVine and DeRozan duo is the reason the Bulls sit 5th in ESPN’s latest power rankings, but the players who will (hopefully) take the floor as the playoffs near is the reason their ceiling is higher. While we are waiting for more specific timelines, both head coach Billy Donovan and Arturas Karnisovas have sounded confident in recent weeks that we will see a fully healthy Bulls team before the postseason rolls around. The most recent positive update has come about top-defender Alex Caruso, who could return to dribbling and shooting work by the time the All-Star break finishes up. But our eyes should arguably be most focused on Patrick Williams. Many signs have pointed to a return for the forward sooner than later. Again, we have yet to receive updated recovery timelines for any of the injured players, but this will be a storyline to follow even more closely as games start up later this week.

•   When Michael Jordan walked on the floor in Cleveland, I could feel the gravity of the moment from my couch.

•   I’ve had my fun at LeBron James’ expense, but even I can’t deny the embrace he shared with Jordan was special. Both players represent a prestigious era of basketball, and the game simply wouldn’t be where it is today without the contributions of both players. As little as we’ve seen these two men interact over the years, I think both have grown to recognize that deep down, and this moment might as well be a signal of that recognition.

 

•   Whatever. LaVine will just dunk on you in the playoffs.

•   Let’s hope they stopped to grab some advice from AK and Eversley.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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