It wasn’t the answer that every Bulls fan necessarily wanted to hear from Zach LaVine, but it was the answer the two-time All-Star gave.
Asked if he sought out some advice from veteran teammate DeMar DeRozan in the aftermath of his “difficult” late-game Friday benching, LaVine responded, “It’s not a difficult moment for me. I had a bad game. You think it’s a difficult moment? We lost a game. I didn’t have a good game, I didn’t shoot well. It’s not a difficult moment. I got to go home and see my kid. I didn’t have a difficult day.”
The kind of statement that a leader should admit to? That’s up for interpretation.
Whether it was trading teams or going through numerous coaching changes, LaVine’s leadership skills have seemingly been a work in progress. But by all accounts, he has taken the reins in that department the last few years, and while he might not be as hands-on as DeRozan is with the younger players, he is well respected.
Coach Billy Donovan reiterated that on Monday.
“I think guys that are at Zach’s level as a player, the one thing I’ve always admitted, and I think he’s no different, is there’s always areas in the offseason that he looks and tries to get better at,” Donovan said. “One of the things I respect about him in terms of the leadership role is he doesn’t fake it. What I mean by that is try and be someone he’s not in that role. I think one of the main things in a leadership position is you’ve got to be yourself.”
That’s why Donovan and LaVine were able to move on from the coach’s decision to bench him as quickly as they have, with both speaking their minds to each other and pulling no punches.
“There’s a lot of different ways to lead, you know?” Donovan said. “Probably Tim Duncan led different than Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, they’re all different. I think the biggest thing is to be authentic, and real, and genuine, and true to who you are, and I think [LaVine] really tries to do that. I think his voice would always carry weight just because he’s being genuine and true to himself, and I think that’s always been important to him.”
As far as if LaVine did actually have that conversation with DeRozan?
“I didn’t talk to DeMar about anything like that,” LaVine said. “I went home and chilled and digested the loss and got ready for [the Saturday] practice.”
Coby White made his return from a thigh contusion on Friday, but Donovan was only able to get him four minutes of work in that loss.
That was stretched out against Boston, but there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a slow process to get him back into the rotation on a full-time basis.
“I thought we had a good practice [Sunday], some contact, so I think that helped him a little bit,” Donovan said of White. “He’s still doing some things after practices as well.
“We certainly have to try and help get him back into the rotation, get his feet back under him. He’s still under the same thing, he’s not going to be able to go long stretches, just to be honest. They want him in these game situation to build up a little more endurance before going too many minutes and putting himself at risk.”
White was averaging just under 22 minutes per game before the injury.