Despite putting up a respectable score in the three-point contest, Zach LaVine was unable to advance in the Finals round of the three-point contest but still enjoyed representing Chicago in this year's All-Star weekend.
Zach LaVine sat waiting and watching as the threes were dropping like stones down a well, Devin Booker, Buddy Hield and Davis Bertans putting up historic first round scores in the All-Star three-point shooting competition. There were two extra shots this year, but Booker and Hield had scored 27s and Bertans a 26. Only three shooters advanced.
The United Center crowd was on LaVine's side and his confidence was surging. "I heard the crowd ovation," acknowledged LaVine, the Bulls only competitor in the All-Star weekend events. "But I was looking at that rim; I was locked in."
So when LaVine's turn came seventh among the eight participants, he was calm and ready to go. "I'd done the All-Star (dunk) contest twice, so I'm used to the atmosphere, the pressure, the bright lights," LaVine said. "If you're confident in what you do and you put the work in there shouldn't be anything to be nervous at. You should be anxious to go out and do it."
So LaVine turned to Booker and declared, ‘I'm going for 30 right now'. My mind was, ‘I'm getting 30."
Zach LaVine represents the Bulls in the three-point contest.
LaVine got close, but not close enough, and it perhaps was a strategic misjudgments that at least denied him a chance for a shootout to break a third place tie. LaVine tied Bertans with 17 made shots in the 27 attempts. Hield had 19 in the first round and Booker 18. LaVine failed to made enough of his bonus two and three-point balls and dropped to fourth place and out of the competition.
Hield would go on to defeat Booker by making his last shot in the next and final round for two points for a 27-26 win. Bertans was third with 22 points.
"I was ready to go; I was preparing for it," LaVine said. "What hurt me was the money ball rack."
Players selected which five-ball rack they wanted for the balls to be worth two points each instead of four for one point and the fifth for two points. There were two special green balls added this year for three points each. LaVine placed his money ball rack at the top of the key and made just two of five. Bertans made all five in his money ball rack.
Zach had a hot start in the three-point competition but was unable to advance to the Finals round.
"If you make four of those, the rest of them don't matter," LaVine explained. "The money ball and getting off to a hot start was what I was banking on. I just didn't do that. If I could have changed it around, I would have put the money ball in the corner (where LaVine made all 10 attempts). I would have put them last. My thinking was I start off hot and that's how I was practicing and the middle shots you can get to 20 points and then coast all the way through."
It didn't happen that way, though LaVine did finish ahead of defending champion Joe Harris, Trae Young, Duncan Robinson and Devonte' Graham.
The first event of the evening of contests was the Skills Challenge, which Miami's Bam Adebayo won in the finals over Domantas Sabonis. The contest is an obstacle course of dribbing, passing and a three-point shot. Adebayo had been one of 11 on threes for the season. He made his third attempt. Chicago's Patrick Beverley and former Windy City player Spencer Dinwiddie were among the contestants.
There was some controversy—if there can be such a thing for an exhibition, though the dunk contest from 1988 in Chicago has a history —when Miami's Derrick Jones Jr. won in an overtime round over Orlando's Aaron Gordon. Many believed Gordon should have won when he lost to LaVine in 2016, LaVine's second win. Gordon produced perfect scores on five dunks, but scoring started again in each round and in the so called dunk off Gordon received a 47 of 50 despite dunking when jumping over Boston's 7-6 Tacko Fall. It appeared to be a judging conspiracy like some believe in 1988 when Chicagoan Gale Sayers was a judge. Dwyane Wade was a judge thus time and a former teammate of Jones and close with the Miami organization. Wade gave Gordon the low score along with fellow judge Scottie Pippen. Chicago musical artist Common, also a judge, told ESPN the judges agreed to a tie for that dunk off round to go one more, but someone changed their vote to deny Gordon. Dozens of NBA players weighed in on social media to contest the result.
Which is why the three-point contest is perhaps the most credible. Everyone can see the ball going in. LaVine's shooting would have gained him honors in the regular season, making 17 of 27 threes.
For this contest, they just happened not to be at precisely the right time and place.
Zach LaVine competes in the three-point contest for the first time in his career.
"I'm mad because you guys know I want to go out there and put a show on," LaVine, wearing his blue "city" Bulls jersey, said afterward. "I got off to a hot start and ended well, but it wasn't enough. That score of 27, they did a good job. They did their thing and knocked down the money balls.
"I appreciate Chicago and they know how I feel about the city," said LaVine, who said he directed All-Star players to some of his favorite pizza restaurants, Giordanos and Pequods. "I had to do something here. I really wanted to be in the (Sunday) game, but it didn't work out. I had to do something for Chicago and I'm glad I did. I wanted to bring that trophy home. I think I had a respectable score, but I didn't bring home the championship.
"Any All-Star weekend you get to be a part of is great," said LaVine. "Not everyone gets to do it. This is my third now and I'm thankful for every moment. One day the ball stops bouncing, so you just have to take it in."
Zach LaVine joined the NBA on TNT guys on set before Saturday's festivities.
Before the contests, NBA commissioner Adam Silver conducted his annual state of the NBA media conference. Silver announced that the MVP trophy for the All-Star game would be renamed for Kobe Bryant, who set records with 18 straight All-Star appearances. There are various tributes scheduled Sunday for Bryant and his family and friends because of the fatal helicopter crash that killed Bryant and eight others including a daughter. The All-Star game Sunday will have a new format with scores by quarters and a special 24-point fourth quarter goal for Bryant's number. In addition, players will wear the Nos. 24 an 2 to honor Bryant and his daughter Gianna. The trophy previously has a sponsor's name.
Silver also said he eventually expects some sort of in season tournament and indicated that former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel had a significant role in the game coming to Chicago. One of Emanuel's projects was to attract professional sports events, like the draft, to Chicago. The NFL and NBA drafts have been in Chicago. Silver also estimated the potential lost revenue to the NBA from comments by a Rockets team executive about China would probably be about $400 million.
"First of all, let me thank the Reinsdorfs, Jerry and Michael," Silver said in his opening remarks. "I think Jerry pledged he wasn't going to have another All-Star Game here and Michael convinced him. At least he tells me now he's thrilled that we're here." The Reinsdorfs were in attendance to support LaVine in the three-point contest.
"I happened to be here in Chicago the last time the All-Star Game took place here, which was 32 years ago in 1988," Silver said. "I was a law student at the University of Chicago in my third year and managed to secure tickets for All-Star Saturday and the game itself, and had an incredible experience. I also want to thank former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He did have a lot to do with bringing the All-Star Game here. He is a very convincing person. I know he had several conversations with both the Reinsdorfs and with me, and he was very insistent that we announce that the All-Star Game was going to come here while he was still mayor.
"I strongly believe we will end up with some sort of in-season tournament and a play-in (playoff) tournament," Silver said, though he added talk of it by the league's 75th anniversary in 2022 is premature. The 75th anniversary game will be in Cleveland, the site of the 50th anniversary game. The NBA celebrated that year with a 50 greatest players team and will add 25 to that for the 2022 weekend.
"I think it also gives us a chance to look more holistically at the season," said Silver. "This issue has come up a lot related to load management, appropriate resting of players. Is 82 games the right number of games in a season? As I've said before, that's been in place for over 50 years now. The game has changed. We know more about health and physical fitness. Or even if we're playing the same number of games, should they be played over more days to provide for more rest? But …I can't say exactly when it will be."