CHICAGO – The moments Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said he will remember most about former Wolves and current Bulls guard Zach LaVine are those away from the court.
Before Wednesday’s matchup, Saunders relayed a story from his wedding day about how LaVine was one of the first people Saunders saw outside the church as he was hustling to make it in time after being traded to Chicago.
“He raced from Chicago and his flight was delayed but he had to be there,” Saunders said. “That’s a moment that’s always going to stick with me.”
It typified the kind of person LaVine is, Saunders said, one who treated everyone in the organization well when he was with Minnesota. Even though they were opponents Wednesday, Saunders has been happy to see the season LaVine is having. He is averaging a career-high 25 points per game and is making a case to being an Eastern Conference All-Star team member. It’s the kind of season Saunders envisioned when the Wolves drafted him in 2014.
“He’s done a good job of developing into an under-control offensive player,” Saunders said. “The way he can score the basketball and the way he’s able to almost take over games late. … There were a number of games where he’s been a huge catalyst to Chicago’s wins here.”
LaVine joined Chicago after the Wolves traded him in June of 2017 as part of the package that brought Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. But the time away hasn’t diminished their relationship.
“Zach is a player that I formed a special bond with,” Saunders said. “… He’s one of the best guys I’ve been around at a young age being mature and how he treated people in the organization.
A return trip?
Jarrett Culver hopes he’ll be back in Chicago in a few weeks. That’s where this year’s All-Star Game is taking place and, as part of that weekend, where the NBA holds a game featuring its “Rising Stars.”
The game is comprised of rookies or second-year players, with guard Josh Okogie playing last year for the international team against the U.S. Okogie is eligible again this season.
Culver has averaged 15.1 points in his past 12 games, and has looked more comfortable on offense.
“That would be very fun for me, a great opportunity, a blessing for sure,” Culver said. “I’m just going to keep working. That’s not my decision who picks that. Just keep working to get in that. I think I should, but just keep working for it.”
Towns an All-Star?
Saunders also did some stumping for center Karl-Anthony Towns to make the All-Star team and said the time Towns has missed (17 games because of a sprained left knee and an illness) shouldn’t disqualify him from earning a spot.
“He’s a transcendent talent that he needs to be a part of the All-Star weekend,” Saunders said.