“But You Play A Guy Like Me Down The Stretch” | Bulls Star Zach LaVine Questions Fourth-Quarter Benching By Head Coach Billy Donovan

Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine let it be known that he wasn’t happy about not being in the game during closing time of Friday’s 108-107 loss to Orlando on Friday.

“I got to do a better job at the beginning of the game to make my shots, but you play a guy like me down the stretch,” LaVine said after the game. “That’s what I do. Do I like the decision? No. Do I have to live with it? Yeah. Be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.”

The underachieving Bulls are 6-10, including 3-7 in their past 10 games. That includes Friday’s 108-107 home loss to the Orlando Magic.

Prior to his benching in that loss, LaVine was 1 of 14 from the field for four points. That’s not the type of effort the Bulls expected when they shelled out that five-year, $215M max extension over the summer to keep the two-time slam dunk champion in the “Windy City” long term.


LaVine Has Regressed This Season

Since signing the big money extension, LaVine has seen his scoring average, shooting percentage and three-point percentage drop. That, along with his nagging knee concerns, may have the Bulls regretting the extension. We could also be reading too much into it and that seems to be the explanation that head coach Bill Donovan gave when asked about it.

“I feel like my job, my responsibility in those moments is to try to make the best decisions for the team. And I thought that was the best decision at the time. To me, I don’t look at it as anything else other but one-off game where this is what was going on. I know he wanted to be out there. There’s probably not very many games where LaVine hasn’t been out there in those moments, but that group was playing well and it gave us a chance.”

LaVine Isn’t The First Star To Complain About Playing Time

Star players not being on the floor during winning time or to start a game, that raises a few eyebrows. While LaVine is the latest to gripe at not being on the floor in certain situations, he’s nowhere near the first to do so.

Earlier this season Lakers star Russell Westbrook didn’t like the idea of coming off the bench, and last season he wasn’t happy about then-head coach Frank Vogel sitting him in the fourth quarter.

With LaVine, it probably won’t come to that as he is in his prime and also part of a talented Bulls triumvirate which also includes, all-star DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

On the flip side, NBA fans and analysts have been complaining that load management is killing the product and the superstars are taking too much time off.

So Lavine’s eagerness to be on the court should be commended and rewarded at the very least.