Zach Misses Out on All-Star Game

Zach Could Still Appear in the Dunk or 3-Point Contest, but Will Have To Wait For Next Year to Appear on Sunday Night
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

Body

Wait 'til next year?

Or maybe until someone gets injured?

Probably next year as Zach LaVine despite being fourth in the Eastern Conference in scoring was left off the 2020 NBA All-Star team for the game next month in Chicago.

The starters were revealed last week and the reserves Thursday on the TNT pregame broadcast.

It perhaps wasn't as much a surprise as a disappointment since the reserves are selected from a vote of the conference coaches. The coaches almost always make their picks from the teams with winning records. So players like Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis with far inferior statistics and generally not regarded to be as talented as LaVine were added to the East team.

Zach on the bench

Every reserve added to the East team was from a team with a winning record. Also absent was Washington's Bradley Beal despite being sixth in the NBA in scoring at more than 28 points per game. Beal was the first player omitted averaging that much in 35 years.

The Western Conference coaches were more liberal with two reserves from teams with losing records, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers and Brandon Ingram from the New Orleans Pelicans. Many expected Phoenix' Devin Booker to be added since the Suns have a better record than the Pelicans and Booker is sixth in scoring and averaging more than 27 per game. Though perhaps Ingram is only holding space to let Zion Williamson play.

The Eastern Conference reserves:

Adebayo and Jimmy Butler Miami Heat, Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors, Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks, Sabonis, Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers, Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics.

The Western Conference reserves:

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz, Ingram, Chris Paul Oklahoma City Thunder, Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets, Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets.

The starters from the Eastern Conference are Giannnis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young from the losing Atlanta Hawks, Pascal Siakam, Kemba Walker and Joel Embiid. From the West, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. The game is 7 p.m. Central Feb. 16 in the United Center. The starters are selected by a combined vote of fans (50 precent) and media and players 25 percent each.

Though the players are selected by conference, the format for the game continues to evolve because the players in recent years have stopped competing. Now the leading vote getters, who were Antetokounmpo and James, will select teams playground style to be televised on TNT Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. Central. The starters will be drafted first so no one is too embarrassed for being passed over and then the reserves will be selected with captains alternating picks.

The NBA also announced Thursday the format of the All-Star game was being changed for the first time to make each quarter into a mini game like the old minor league CBA used to do. Then they will add the totals for the three quarters and play the fourth to a specified total without a time clock. The late Kobe Bryant will be commemorated with a target of 24 fourth quarter points (his uniform number) for the eventual winner. They'll also announce who wins.

It doesn't seem like LaVine will get a much deserved chance because of the Bulls 19-31 record going into Friday's game in Brooklyn.

LaVine set among many goals making his first All-Star team. But he also has reiterated that he understood winning was the team priority. But winning would lead to recognition for the team and individuals.

Zach driving the ball

The Bulls haven't been able to dig out of the disappointing start to the season. And though they are ninth and still just three games behind seventh place, being 12 games under .500 and with about the same number of losses as the Pistons, Wizards and Hornets was fatal to LaVine's chances because around the NBA the Bulls have not been able to get in playoff conversation.

The results were announced on the pregame TNT broadcast on the popular show with Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley.

With the game in Chicago, there is league sentiment to have a representative from the Bulls. Coby White is expected to be named to the rookie/sophomore game Friday. The NBA appears to be holding a place open for LaVine to perhaps compete again in the slam dunk contest. He is a two-time champion. There also has been talk of LaVine in the three-point contest as he has said he expects to be in Chicago for the big weekend.

Zach smiling

If a player is injured, the commissioner will select a replacement and does not have to go by the voting of the coaches. The TNT broadcasters have no influence on the voting. But most dismissed LaVine's candidacy because of the team's record. They said Beal would deserve an injury replacement if that occurs. Barkley said he would favor Derrick Rose given the former Bull's return to excellence after multiple knee injuries. Even though the Pistons and Wizards have poorer records than the Bulls and the Bulls have dominated both teams this season.

The LaVine omission is unfortunate for Bulls fans and for LaVine, who is having a career year. He's had some of the most spectacular finishes in the league despite the team's record with his 13 threes against Charlotte and the game winner in one of the NBA season highlights. LaVine is averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding and steals and second most in assists while ranking in the league's top 20 in scoring and steals. Plus ,LaVine is shooting 38 percent on threes and is in the top 10 in three pointers made. In addition, LaVine has been an ironman on a debilitated team, playing in all 50 games. He's one of the few top players in the league not to miss a game. LaVine is second in the NBA in total minutes played and 12th overall in scoring. For now, unfortunately he's mostly a welcoming ambassador. The All-Star game will miss his theatrical abilities.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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