Bulls guard Zach LaVine has no problem playing big brother to the rook

LaVine knows what it’s like to have a mentor as a young player. And while he might not have the tough love of Kevin Garnett, his message is being heard by Patrick Williams. Zach LaVine is admittedly a work in progress.
The Bulls guard knows no one would ever confuse him for being a lock-down defender, evident by his latest body of evidence in the Wednesday loss to Atlanta, and even in Year 7 of his NBA career, he’s still walking the tight rope of making sure he gets his points on a nightly basis, but also staying away from being overly aggressive so that his teammates can also get theirs.
What no one will criticize LaVine about? His role as big brother to his younger teammates.
Last season, LaVine went out of his way to lift then-rookie Coby White up on a pedestal, not only singing his praises publicly, but being there as a sounding board behind the scenes.
Now, No. 4 pick overall Patrick Williams is LaVine’s latest project.
“I told him like, man, there are going to be some ups and downs,’’ LaVine said of the relationship he’s built with the forward. “I told him what I did wrong. I used to go to the gym after every bad game I played. I’d be in the gym until like 1, 2 AM. I don’t know about that but I’d be there late. Next day I’d go to practice and I’d be wearing my body down. I said, ‘Just don’t hang your hat on every game. We have so many games. You’re used to playing 32 in college. You’re able to make up for your mistakes really, really soon because you play somebody really good the next day. Just ride the rollercoaster essentially.’ ‘’
LaVine knows that ride well.
He had veterans make sure of that when he was coming into the league, but with one major difference. The leader of that Timberwolves locker room when LaVine broke in during the 2014-15 season was Kevin Garnett.
Big brother? Sure. But KG believed in raising rookies with tough love.
That’s where LaVine is different.
Sure, he’ll privately talk to younger players when they mess up, but believes there’s a way to do it to with words rather than intimidating stares.
“Keeping me confident, telling me just to be aggressive, pulling me to the side during practice, games, just showing me things that I can do, then just leading by example,’’ Williams said of the relationship he’s built with LaVine, and how he’s learned from him. “It’s easy for somebody to tell me something or to say something, but he actually goes out there and shows me. Shows how to play hard, how to pick your spots, pick your positions. When you want to score the ball, when you want to facilitate, things like that. So he’s just been great, for not only me, but for the team as well.’’
Not bad, considering LaVine’s long-term future with the Bulls is cloudy at best.
The guard is signed through the 2021-22 season, but at $19.5 million each of the next two years, is fiscally attractive to playoff teams with championship aspirations. LaVine might not play the role of Robin on a title team, but he’s be a heck of a third option.
And even knowing his tomorrows in Chicago aren’t promised, he’s willing to tutor the young players and pass some sort of torch their way.
Although according to LaVine, Williams is more than a quick study.
“How even-keeled he is,’’ LaVine said. “Even if he has a bad game, he still competes at the other end and he doesn’t hang his head on things. He’s more mature in that way. Obviously, he’s going to learn a lot throughout the season. He comes ready to compete and battle and it doesn’t affect him. Every day, a missed shot or a bad play, I think he responds really well to that.’’

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