The light go out. The Chicago Bulls lineup video plays on the big screen followed by a light show on the court. It all leads up to Bulls PA announcer Tommy Edwards announcing the startling lineup.
“FROM UCLA…..6′ 5″ number 8 Zach LaVine!” Remember when you could not even hear Derrick Rose’s name when he was announced? I sure did, sent chills down your spine. For LaVine, he did not quite get those cheers but received a nice ovation as fans anxiously waited for his debut to come.
On his own bobblehead night, LaVine took center stage as the new face of the franchise, a centerpiece to build around.
“It felt really good,” LaVine said after the game. “Just to be out there playing again, having that feeling; I haven’t had it in such a long time. To get the win, cap it off; I’d love to play in the fourth quarter, but I’ll be able to soon. It was just a good night overall.”
It did not take much time for LaVine to score his first point as a Bull. On the first possession, he ran down under the basket as Justin Holiday set a pick, on what was a nifty play, came back up to the three point line and drained it. After being out of the game for almost a year, that had to have felt really good.
The Bulls finally have all the parts of the Jimmy Butler draft night trade on the court. With the miraculous play of Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen so far this season, many said the Bulls are winners of the trade. In my opinion, we are going to have to wait awhile until we can declare a winner.
Back to LaVine’s debut, the former UCLA Bruin looked relaxed and comfortable in his first action of the season. In just under 20 minutes, he finished with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, 3-4 from three point range. A impressive showing from a guy who has not appeared in a game in almost a year.
Last season, LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38% from three. An explosive player to say the least, he showed steady improvement since coming into the league in 2014. And still at the age of 22, the sky is limit for LaVine.
LaVine put on a pretty good showing from the home crowd Saturday night. From knocking down three 3’s to almost dunking an alley-oop (which the United Center would have went absolutely nuts), you saw just why he has the potential to be a great player in this league. He created his own shot a few times and his one drive to the bucket got some oo’s and ahh’s from the crowd.
Not generally known as a great defender, LaVine would probably tell you that is something he has to work on. But the offensive game is there and the Bulls offense just added another weapon in its arsenal.
I am really excited to see LaVine play with Dunn and Markkanen. Dunn has already proven he can be the go to guy late in games, and once LaVine can play normal minutes, they will be hard to stop come crunch time.
LaVine will have the same game-plan Monday afternoon vs. Miami, 20 minutes in the first three quarters. On Saturday, LaVine ran with the starters but also got time with the reserves where he was the primary ball handler. Yet another part of LaVine’s game on display Saturday was his ability to run a little bit of the offense and be a playmaker.
Bulls fans have been very anxious for LaVine’s return. The face of the franchise has arrived. Even though the Bulls are 16-27, fans are excited by the young players and the future ahead.