Why LaVine is happy to cede shots to Vučević when needed originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
With his increased efficiency, improved decision-making and impact on winning that led to his first All-Star appearance even before Nikola Vučević arrived, Zach LaVine put the “empty calories scorer” talk to bed a while ago on his own.
But Vučević nailed the coffin shut following the Bulls’ 113-97 victory over a shorthanded Pacers team Tuesday night in Indianapolis.
“I think at times he might be a little too unselfish and he can be a little more aggressive, which I’ve told him,” Vučević said.
LaVine has been loudly emphasizing to anyone willing to listen that individual statistics matter little to him compared to winning. And now that LaVine has a second All-Star to play with, he’s walking the walk.
For the second straight game, Vučević attempted more shots than LaVine, this time by a wide 29-18 margin. LaVine, who is playing through a sore ankle that sidelined him for his first missed game last week, failed to reach 20 points for the third time in the five games he has played with Vučević.
But LaVine added eight rebounds and six assists to his 19 points, complementing Vučević’s first monster game as a Bull of 32 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.
“As long as there's a ‘W’ behind there, I'm good,” LaVine said. “I'm coming back off this ankle injury. I'm trying to get my timing and my legs under me, even tonight. There's a lot of shots I could've made where I could've been at my average without shooting 20 times. But he had it going.
“I think you (reporters) know me. I'm all about winning and trying to get this team to be better. So if that means me taking a lesser role some nights and my scoring goes down. I'm fine with that as long as we get a win.”
The Bulls have won two straight and enjoyed the rare night where they methodically overwhelmed a shorthanded team they’re chasing in the standings. LaVine’s average still stands at a career-high 27.2 points per game; it’s not like he forgot how to score.
It’s also not like he hasn’t willingly deferred before, such as on those nights last season when Coby White authored explosive offensive performances. But with Vučević in tow for the long haul, LaVine may be doing so more frequently.
And he’s fine with that.
“A game like this where my shot wasn't going in as much, you're not as pressed to have all the pressure on you to go try to save the game,” LaVine said. “We can run a play, just dump it down to him and I know that we're gonna be OK. It's a relief.
“Obviously, you need multiple guys on teams, two big-time players on a team at least. You see Brooklyn, they got like six. So you've got to go out there and match it.”
Both players and head coach Billy Donovan talked about a growing chemistry forming between two unselfish scorers. Vučević posted five assists himself.
“The more him and I are able to grow and build that chemistry in a two-man game, the better it will be for the whole team,” Vučević said. “I think in this league when you have a two-man game like that with two guys who can score in different ways, it’s very hard to guard.”
LaVine said he’s still adjusting to how “soft” Vučević’s hands are, how he catches everything.
“We both draw so much attention,” LaVine said. “I feel like even the last couple games, the plays have been real easy to find. Me coming off the pick-and-roll, if there's two people on me, they left him. And I have a lot of trust in throwing that back out there to him. So, yeah, it's a big-time trust factor. He has a proven track record.”