Bulls guard Zach LaVine still says benching him was wrong decision

If anyone thought Sunday would be the kick off of the Zach LaVine apology tour, they just don’t know the Bulls guard very well.

While he’s always been considered a model teammate and easy to coach, LaVine is also as confident in his ability as anyone in the league.

So when he expressed his displeasure in Billy Donovan’s decision to sit him in crunch time after the Friday loss to Orlando, he meant it. A few days away from the eyes of the media wasn’t going to change that.

“I just told him I feel like I’ve earned the right to go out there and try to play through a bad game,” LaVine said of the discussion he had with his coach. “[Donovan’s] decision was to try to do the best thing for the team, which I respect. If we won, obviously I would’ve been ecstatic. We lost, I wasn’t. I had a terrible game.”

A fact that both LaVine and Donovan could agree on.

With the Bulls trailing the Magic and LaVine a dismal 1-for-14 from the field — including an 0-for-5 from three-point range — Donovan went to second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu over LaVine with just over three minutes left in the final quarter. It did more than work, as the Bulls took a four-point lead thanks to a Dosunmu blocked shot, and were well on their way to snapping a three-game losing streak with 26.5 seconds left.

Magic guard Jalen Suggs, however, had a different ending in mind, making two free throws, and then taking advantage of two Nikola Vucevic missed free throws, to hit the game-winning three with five seconds left.

“That’s Billy’s decision, he’s gotta lay with it,” LaVine said immediately afterward. “Do I agree with it? No. I think I can go out there and still be me even if I miss some shots.

“You play a guy like me down the stretch.”

LaVine also said he wanted to speak to Donovan about it, and the two did that.

“We’re all good,” LaVine said of his relationship with his coach. “I think he understands where I’m coming from and I understand his decision as a coach that he has to make are tough, even if your players don’t agree with it. And that’s just what it is.”

While LaVine admittedly had as bad a game as he could, his point was he should have at least been on the court when the Magic were forced to foul Vucevic.

“I told [Donovan] at the very least bring me in for free throws,” LaVine said. “I think I could’ve helped at least seal the game with free throws and help get the ball in bounds. I’m one of the best players on the court regardless of who’s playing and I think that I should be on the court in crunch time and that’s just the mentality I have.”

Donovan not only appreciated LaVine’s confidence, but also what came out of the talk the two had about the subject.

“I felt it was the right thing for our team,” Donovan said. “I totally get his competitiveness and his wanting to win and be out there. He should. You know, I think all great players want to be able to do that.

“The one thing I’ve always tried to do with all these guys is you try to have open communication. Am I going to agree with every decision these guys make between the lines when the game’s going on? No. Are they going to agree with every decision I’m going to make from the sideline? No. It happens. But I think, it’s all about where people’s intentions are. I trust Zach’s intentions. And hopefully he trusts my intentions.”

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