Zach Looking to Shine in First All-Star Game Appearance

Zach feels his game sets him up well to make an impact at the All Star Game, and he is looking to be the first NBA player to ever win the both the Dunk & 3-Point Contests.

It's Showtime Sunday night for the NBA with the 70th All-Star game. Don't be surprised if Zach LaVine is in the spotlight.

"I just want to go out there and put on a show," the Bulls high scoring guard said Sunday morning in an international media Zoom video conference. "I think I have the perfect game and excitement for an All-Star game. I've won the MVP of the Rising Stars game. If I get the right amount of time, I always try to go for the show stopper.

"I think I can come out there and show some excitement," LaVine added. "If that's making an electric play, if that's shooting, dribbling, whatever it is. There's going to be at least one Zach LaVine highlight out there."

C'mon, Doc Rivers, who will coach the Team Durant with LaVine. It's on you.

We want Zach! We want Zach!

This All-Star game is like no other, or at least few others since basically the 1950s when the game was mostly an off day and players would fly in and out quickly. It used to be on Tuesday. The extravaganza that has grown into a weeklong civic event this year because of the pandemic has been reduced to a single day of contests and the game. Commissioner Adam Silver Saturday in a media session explained despite some objections the decision to have the game was a balance of practicality and economics. LaVine said he was pleased to be in Atlanta and likened it to simply another road trip in this unusual season.

"I don't think the NBA would be trying to put you into harms way," LaVine said. "We're already playing games, so it's pretty much just like another day. This has always been one of my goals and I've always wanted to play in an All-Star game, so it was an easy decision for me."

Still, it's an All-Star weekend like no other.

Zach speaking with the media ahead of the All Star game

LaVine spoke from his hotel room wearing a gray All-Star hoodie sweat shirt, his hair cut neatly and facial hair expanding. His eyes were bright and he seemed upbeat and excited. He said he received just four tickets to bring his parents, a close friend and his fiancee.

"I've been in my room," LaVine said. "I took the flight here at 2 o'clock (Saturday), got tested, got some food, came up to my room and stayed here until this morning when I went downstairs and got tested. So it's pretty much the same as on the road that we've been dealing with. I did go over and get my three-point practice up, but other than that, just been kicking it in the room, counting the hours.''

So if Rivers cooperates, it should be a kick watching LaVine.

First it will be the three-point shooting contest as LaVine seeks to become the only player ever to win both the dunk and shooting contests. Some, including Michael Jordan, have tried. With an All-Star game appearance, winning would demonstrate that LaVine could be one of the most versatile and talented players in NBA history.

LaVine won back to back dunk contests in 2015 and 2016 over Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon. Though he's still capable of extraordinary slam dunk gyrations and inventions, LaVine said that part of his career is history. Now he wants to make some.

"I feel I'm past that point in my career," LaVine said. "Obviously, I have some dunks I can still do. I did a pregame dunk not too long ago just to show everybody I could still do it if I wanted to. But I don't have the same drive for it like I really used to. I want to go out there and try the three-point contest. I want to make All-Star games. I want to make the playoffs. I want to be an All-NBA player. That's where my aspirations are now. I think now I get to sit back and watch the dunk contest and enjoy it for that."

Zach with an insane pre-game dunk in New Orleans

The timing also perhaps shows the evolution of All-Star weekend with the dunk contest at halftime of the game and the shooting contest in the pregame ceremonies and highlights. The star players no longer will participate in dunk contests with only three contestants this season and one from the G-league. Stars like Stephen Curry headline the three-point contest.

Covid did interrupt as Joel Embiid from the Durant team and Ben Simmons from the LeBron James team were ruled out of the game because of contact with a barber who apparently had tested positive. The Bulls start their second half schedule Thursday against the 76ers. The Pelicans' Zion Williamson moves into the starting lineup to replace Embiid for the Durant team.

The game had started to become a farce as basically a runway of slam dunks until last year in Chicago when the NBA altered the format to a so-called "Elam ending" when the teams in the last four minutes play to a designated target score. You know, first to 11 wins. Though I always associated "Elam" with movie and TV westerns' bad guys Jack Elam, it's apparently a professor from Ball State U., which I also attended and has little basketball history. The concept was introduced for a playground-type event called The Basketball Tournament and apparently induced NBA players to try a bit more.

Which should be no problem for LaVine, who has been trying for this recognition. For himself and the Bulls.

"For the organization, I think it's great," LaVine said. "Showing that we have another All-Star in place, building something special. You want to go out there and you want to play with the top guys; you see yourself as one and you want to go out there and compete with them. You grow up watching All-Star games and it's always been a dream to be in one and continue to be in one, so I'm very happy to be here.

"Looking forward to the three-point contest," LaVine added. "I got my feet wet last year. I think I know where to put the money balls in the corner this year. Hopefully, I have a good round. I think I earned my respect (in the NBA). You have to earn your respect in this league. It's not given. You play the cards you're dealt. Everybody's hand is different. Weren't drafted to a team that was top five. Put up these numbers on teams that aren't in the playoffs, it's almost like you're looked down upon for it. We have to continue to fight for your respect. Once you get it, you want to stay with it. I think the players understand that. We have to understand it's not always about individual things. That's where my mindset is. Do whatever I gotta do to help this (Bulls) team win. Individual success comes from that.

"I feel like I've played at this level for the last couple years, and sometimes you gotta breakthrough," LaVine said. "I'm happy I'm here now; obviously, this has always been one of my goals. But it's not the end goal for me. This isn't just a pit stop. This is something I want to continue happening. I have bigger and bigger goals I want to continue to go for, team and individual."