(670 The Score) In his first All-Star season, Bulls guard Zach LaVine is making the most important impression one can on the organization’s top basketball executive, as his effect is going beyond his statistics.
“He’s also impacting winning,” executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said of LaVine on Monday evening. “So that’s why this team is fighting for a playoff spot.”
Karnisovas’ comments came in his first media session since training camp, so it also marked the first time he had discussed LaVine in such a setting since his All-Star selection last week. Entering play Monday, LaVine was averaging a career-high 28.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 52.4% from the field and 44.2% on 3-pointers.
With that in mind, Karnisovas was asked if the 25-year-old LaVine had established himself as a franchise cornerstone who’s a long-term piece to build around or if he still needs to prove more to ascend to that level. Karnisovas sidestepped the long-term aspect to instead focus on LaVine’s current play.
“He’s deserving right now of his accolades and made an All-Star Game and we are really proud of him,” Karnisovas said. “We are constantly in games because of his play, so he’s been establishing himself as a leader of this team, and we’ve improved dramatically because he is impacting winning.”
After going 22-43 last season and being left out of the NBA’s restart in Orlando, the Bulls were 15-17 and tied for ninth in the East entering play Monday evening. In a bunched-up conference, they were only 1.5 games out of fourth place.
Karnisovas liked how LaVine and the other Bulls players have responded to coach Billy Donovan in his first season in Chicago.
“Players themselves bought in,” Karnisovas said. “Obviously, Billy and his staff have done an unbelievable job defensively and offensively. We still have the two problems that we’ve had all season long, that we try to reduce – turning the ball over and then fouling. Those are the two that are actually impacting our defense. I think in the last 10 games, we are 11th in net rating and 15th in offensive rating and 11th in defensive. So we’re not doing too bad, but again, when turnovers and fouling get back in and are creeping up, I think that’s when we get ourselves in trouble and we beat ourselves.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.