DETROIT, Mich. — Chicago All-Star guard Zach LaVine got the new-look Bulls off to a flying start this season by dropping 34 points, seven rebounds and four assists to lead them past the Detroit Pistons, 94-88, in their opener on Wednesday night.
After igniting a third-quarter rally with 15 of his points and then adding eight more in the fourth, he sat next to new teammate DeMar DeRozan during postgame interviews with added confidence, saying he is only looking ahead, not back at 2020-21.
“This ain’t last year. We’re looking forward now,” LaVine said of the revamped Bulls, who also added Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to the roster. “It’s a whole new team. A whole new mindset. So, I’m excited that we grinded that one out. A win’s a win.”
The win gave the Bulls their first season-opening triumph since the 2016-17 campaign. And for LaVine, it was the second time he has scored 30 points in a Bulls’ season opener, joining Michael Jordan (7 times) and Artis Gilmore (2 times) as the only players in franchise history to do that multiple times, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“Listen, the shots that he made and things that he does with athletically and talent wise, I think people have seen that for years,” said Bulls coach Billy Donovan. “He’s always kind of had that. I think he’s looking at things through a different lens. His voice is there. There’s a different message coming from him in a really, really different way. He sees things in a different way now, based off his experiences.”
Donovan also credits LaVine’s Olympic experience over the summer of winning a gold medal for Team USA and being around those elite level of NBA players during the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta with helping his maturation process.
Entering the year, LaVine told ESPN that this season would be “crucial” for the direction of the franchise, plus his own future, while entering the final year of his contract.
He elaborated on these thoughts after Wednesday’s game, saying that he’s been a part of teams for much of his career that were rebuilding but said he’s “thankful” for the new faces in Chicago as they look to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season, the first time of his career.
“I’m always confident. I put the work in but having this dude next to me (DeMar DeRozan), having Vooch next to me, that just makes me more confident and more ready to play,” LaVine said. “We have a bunch of dogs on the team now and guys that will step up for each other so I’m really excited, but a win’s a win and we’re going to go forward from here.”