The Chicago Bulls are one of the most exciting teams to watch this season. Here we have a team who had been at the bottom of the standings for the last few years and is now a legitimate playoff threat. While the Bulls can boast about impressive roster depth, two names stand out the most - DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
It is always interesting to find out more about the relationship between two stars. Usually, there is utmost respect between the two. But, there can also be some hatred, as observed in the powerhouse Kobe-Shaq duo. Regarding the DeRozan-LaVine tandem, there is a bit of intimidation lurking between them.
“I’ve never played with a player like Zach before. The things he’s capable of doing offensively is intimidating honestly, how easy he can do the things he can do. It heightens my level to go out there and want to be neck-and-neck with him in competing and helping this team win."
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Sun-Times
DeRozan's fear of LaVine's offensive prowess is not something to laugh at. The man truly is one heck of an offensive talent. And if you have been following LaVine's career since day one, you will be amazed at his growth as a player.
In his first years in Minnesota, LaVine was merely deemed a slasher — someone who uses his sheer athleticism to cut and finish the play with thundering dunks. He showed off the other side of his offensive arsenal only when he was wide-open or when the coach instructed him to. Otherwise, LaVine's role was very much limited in his first few years.
It was in the Slam Dunk Contest where LaVine was given free rein to show off. Between-legs-dunks were considered the most extraordinary feat of athleticism back in the 80s, 90s, and even the early 2000s. But when LaVine came around, the between-the-legs slam became an elementary move.
LaVine became just the fourth player in history to win back-to-back Slam Dunk contests, forging his name beside Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson, and Nate Robinson. This is a remarkable feat, and all but LaVine had other ideas. He did not want to be known as one of the best dunkers in NBA history. Instead, he wants to be heralded as one of the greatest.
So slowly and surely, LaVine worked on other aspects of his game. The turning point in his career came in the 2018-19 NBA season, where he improved to 23.7 points from 16.7 points per game in the season prior. This was when LaVine started dropping 20-30 points with ease and even chipped in a 40-piece several times. Slashing was just a tiny part of his offensive arsenal. LaVine, during this season, became a three-way scorer. Now, we might be seeing the best version of the UCLA product.
Amid DeRozan's terror at the things LaVine can do, he knows his true role as a teammate and a mentor. Whereas Kyle Lowry passed down so many things to him in Toronto, it is now DeRozan's time to play big brother to LaVine.
“When I played with Kyle [Lowry back in Toronto], he taught me a lot. He was older than me, and now kind of the roles being reversed, just trying to teach Zach as much as I’ve learned since being in the league, and just going out there with him has definitely been a fun thing.’’
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Sun-Times
Perhaps this is the secret to the Bulls' success. Not only are they oozing with talent. But there is an immense desire to help one another become the best version of themselves.