The Chicago Bulls might only be a few days into training camp, but Zach LaVine has already made an impression on his head coach.
“The first thing that stood out to me, he is really strong physically,” Billy Donovan said after practice on Friday. “He’s put, to me, good size on, good strength. He looks really explosive. He looks like a different player to me in training camp … When I think about him at the end of last season to where he is now, I think he’s got his athleticism, bounce, and his pop back.”
IT’S OFFICIAL: MY TRAINING CAMP OPTIMISM HAS REACHED … MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE.
In all seriousness, how can you not be encouraged by that update? While there may have been full confidence that Zach LaVine would walk into training camp healthy, it’s still nice to know he’s looking like a player that’s taken another step. There were fair concerns about whether or not a summer spent rehabbing could impact the time he normally uses to add to his game, but it sure sounds like he found a way to improve.
Increased strength could undoubtedly go a long way toward keeping him healthy through a grueling season. Not to mention, someone with his level of explosiveness and downhill burst can surely benefit from a more imposing frame. Not only might it help him finish through contact better, but it could allow him to invite more contact as he hunts extra trips to the free throw line.
Let’s also not forget that LaVine hopes to enhance his contributions on the defensive end. While he needs to be concerned about footwork and being in the right place at the right time, we all know good defense is largely based on effort and physicality. Maybe the All-Star is finally ready to become the two-way player this team needs.
Look, I know we’re only talking about a couple of training camp practices. And it’s not like Donovan is going to walk out in front of reporters and say “Zach is looking weak and slow.” But he also didn’t need to give this rave review right off the bat, and I think it speaks to just how rejuvenated LaVine is heading into this season.