Bulls’ LaVine says rant wasn’t directed at Boylen

CHICAGO — A viral video clip of Zach LaVine from Tuesday night has emerged from the Chicago Bulls’ 124-122 nail-biting loss to Oklahoma City Thunder that the star guard would like to clarify.

LaVine is spotted on camera mouthing, “I have f—ing 40 points” to someone on the sidelines, before drilling a deep 3-pointer from the Bulls’ logo.

Based off previous encounters, many assumed that LaVine was yelling at Bulls coach Jim Boylen, but he says that wasn’t the case.

“You get into the heat of the battle and between players when you guys are talking, you talk smack sometimes, right? And that’s all it was,” LaVine told ESPN, after ending with 41 points.

“We were still down. Dude was talking a little mess to me and I just let him know ‘Look, I’ve got 40, I don’t know why you’re talking to me,'” he added. “I don’t know why they said they thought I was talking to Jim but it was just people being competitive in the game talking.”

It was LaVine’s sixth 40-point game of the season. The only Bulls player with more in a season was Michael Jordan, who posted at least seven or more in 11 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Despite the Bulls’ 20-39 record, LaVine is averaging a career-best 25.5 points per game, which he feels has heightened his media attention.

“I’ve got to do a better job,” LaVine said. “The cameras have been following me lately so people are going to make their own assumptions on what’s going on between me and Jim or me and the team but our relationship is fine. I’m a competitive and fiery guy on the court so that’s pretty much what happened.”

LaVine and Boylen have clashed on previous occasions, though. During Boylen’s early tenure as interim coach last year, they disagreed on practices, then again this season about late-game timeouts in blowouts.

That also became evident earlier this season during a home loss to the Miami Heat. After falling behind 13-0 in the opening quarter, Boylen singled out the Bulls’ best player by benching him for what he described at the time as “three egregious defensive mistakes.” Behind closed doors, Boylen says he was pushing LaVine to stay engaged in games at all times.

“My goal for Zach at that time was to become a more efficient player — a two-way player. I asked him to shoot less contested 2s, get to the free throw line and shoot more of his 3s,” Boylen told ESPN. “And be a two-way player and a winning, productive player, an elite scorer and [an] All-Star.”

With that previous history, LaVine understands how things can be taken the wrong way. However, he gets upset when inaccurate news is shared instead of his highlights or in-game plays.

“That stuff sells with what’s happened before,” LaVine said. “Between a player and coach, I don’t think anybody should ever think it’s going to be buddy buddy or best friends. You have mutual respect and obviously, when you have two competitive people out there, they just want the best, you want to win, and we haven’t been in a winning situation yet so I think people get frustrated but at the end of the day, me and Jim talked.

“We have player-coach meetings and we’re in a good place right now,” he added. “It’s unfortunate that it got misconstrued but it was just between two players out there just having fun with the game.”

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