No Return To Target Center For LaVine, But He'll Always Be Part Of The Family

Here at Timberwolves.com, we typically write articles that celebrate star players’ final or first time playing at Target Center.

However, Wednesday night’s Wolves vs. Bulls game, even though Zach LaVine won't be playing due to a quad injury, had us reflecting on his time in Minnesota.

We make exceptions for those who’ve impacted us the way LaVine has.

When a player like LaVine plays for your favorite team — no matter how long his stay is — you don’t forget what he did for your squad.

In 2014, Flip Saunders took a chance on a gawky, 6-foot-6 kid from UCLA who played as if he towered over everyone else on the court.

LaVine oozed confidence while showing off his handle at the top of the key before popping a 3 in a defender’s face, while sending a crafty dish to Gorgui Dieng or Nikola Pekovic in the paint, and of course, while he wound up for one of his signature dunks that silenced fans until he gave them what they wanted by exploding at the rim.

He got us hooked then and has only improved ever since.

We all remember that awful day when LaVine tore his ACL going up for a layup against the Pistons back in February of 2017. The third-year player was averaging 18.9 points a night for the Wolves and shooting 38.9% from the 3-point line before his season — and career with Minnesota — came to a close.

The injury gave us reason to believe LaVine would never again match the athleticism he once dazzled his peers and fans with.

Boy, were we wrong.

LaVine missed the Bulls’ first 42 games of the 2017-18 season but it took him less than 40 seconds into his first game back to hit a 3 and become Chicago’s next star. His stats dropped slightly in the 24 games he was available for that season, but he’s been a top-20 scorer in the league ever since.

This season, LaVine is averaging a career-high 25.5 points per game and is back to shooting 38% from 3-point range despite upping his attempts to 8.1 per game.

And he’s still dunking.

LaVine has completed 88 of his 92 dunk attempts this season, and NBA.com lists that he’s attempted 11 different variations of his beloved dunk shot.

His on-court talent has made him an obvious fan favorite in Chicago, but it’s who he is as a person that makes him unforgettable in Minnesota.

Remember the photos from LaVine, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Andrew Wiggins’ first trip to the Minnesota State Fair? We were reminded of just how youthful LaVine and Wiggins were from the photos of them sliding down that colorful slide with absolute joy in their eyes.

Remember how LaVine and former Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau used to playfully tease each other?

Or how he dedicated his dunk contest trophy to the late coach who gave him a chance?

I’ll root against him two nights out of the year, but other than that, I’m team LaVine.