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Zach LaVine levels up as a Chicago superstar

Zach LaVine levels up as a Chicago superstar

It's taken awhile, but it seems like Zach LaVine has done enough for a seat at Chicago's top table.

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

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Good morning, frents!

So Arlington is up for sale and the Bears stadium talk has been resurrected for another round.

Do I think any of about 10 important things will happen to make the Bears in the burbs a reality? No.

Do I think it's a lot of fun to talk about? Yes.

Chicago's very own

(USA Today Images)

Are we finally ready to totally embrace Zach LaVine?

The Bulls star was named to his first All-Star team on Tuesday and it was met with a big round of media including an excellent surprise interview with his parents and friends, who proudly basked in his accomplishment.

Bulls fans, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief that LaVine didn't land on the list of snubs again. Playing in the Eastern Conference has its advantages.

It took a while, but it finally feels like LaVine's status in the city has finally been cemented these past few weeks. The hesitation is gone. He's now the face of the franchise and the truth is that it feels OK.

Buy those #8 jerseys for your kids.

Get those tickets to watch him whenever that becomes possible.

Still, as The Athletic's Jon Greenberg wrote on Wednesday, it hasn't been the easiest of paths. LaVine arrived here in 2017 as part of a package for Jimmy Butler. He was just 22 years old and the leap of faith that he'd turn into a big piece of the team's future was more than most of us were willing to take.

Some of this was due to LaVine himself. He was a young gadget dunker with a propensity to shoot as much as he could and nothing you could label as even a passing interest in defense. An injury limited him to just 24 games that first season while the rest of us focused on what Lauri Markkanen — the other big piece in the Butler trade — might be.

Meanwhile, Bulls Nation wasn't in a condition to love anyone. Exhausted by the GarPax regime and depressed the Derrick Rose era never produced a title, the tone here was too bitter to pin our hopes to a project.

That's changed now, of course.

LaVine scored 35 points in Wednesday's overtime win over Minnesota, his 16th 30-point game in 31 tries. His scoring average is up to 28.8 points per game and his February average is high enough for him to comically appear on a best month list dominated by Michael Jordan.

LaVine's defense still won't get him on any all-defense teams, but it's better than what it was. He's still just 25 and it seems like he's blossomed into the veteran leader that a franchise with bigger aspirations needs. His relationship with Billy Donovan shows that coaching at the NBA level isn't something that should be dismissed as unimportant.

Meanwhile, LaVine's All-Star nod puts him on the following list of Bulls players to make the game in the post-title era.

  • Derrick Rose
  • Luol Deng
  • Joakim Noah
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Pau Gasol

With the exception of Gasol, that entire list is made up of players who are beloved by fans and integral to the story of the franchise.

And now LaVine should be among them.

I know there might still be a pocket of fans who won't fully come around on him. And there should still be a healthy skepticism as Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley try to build the Bulls' first title team in a generation going on two. Scott Koral and I talked about that for a bit on our latest YouTube video.

But what LaVine has done has done should be more than enough to convince people that he should be a part of the foundation going forward. The Bulls need top-level talent to get to reach the next rung and trading LaVine would only create a hole on the roster, not fill one.

In the meantime, LaVine has more than earned a place at a Chicago superstar table with Khalil Mack, Patrick Kane, the Cubs trio that all need new contracts and Jose Abreu.

Let's make him feel welcome.

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Spring training news

Sox

Jose Abreu's arrival in Glendale has been delayed after the reigning AL MVP tested positive for COVID-19 in January. The team says he is completely asymptomatic, but it's still concerning to hear after watching Yoan Moncada struggle with the after effects of the virus last season.

  • Tony La Russa said Abreu could report by either Friday or Monday.
  • Said La Russa: "When he walks in the door, it's going to be a huge moment for the 2021 White Sox, because the guys can't wait to see him, and he can't wait to see them. He's impatient, which he's supposed to be. But I told him there's time to get him ready.”

Cubs

Top prospect Brennen Davis was added as a non-roster invitee to spring training, which will get the 21-year-old center fielder some time with the major leaguers before going back to the minor leagues to start the season.

  • The Cubs as underdogs? After years of big expectations, Jason Heyward says he's fine with the team being able to put a chip on its shoulder. "I love that we're not being picked to win," Heyward told reporters.

Thursday Thank Yous!

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  1. A source told Scott Powers that fans will be let in for Cubs and Sox games this year, but it's not looking great for the Bulls and Blackhawks. The Athletic
  2. The free throws that changed the 1997 Finals. Chicago Mag
  3. I had a great time talking Cubs with Evan Altman and Jon Strong the other day. Their predicted win totals for the team are a little higher than mine. Cubs Insider
  4. Why Patrick Kane should be in the Hart Trophy conversation. NBC Sports Chicago
  5. Jim O'Donnell is on the Bears-to-Arlington Heights Metra train. Daily Herald

Finally, I didn't think a schedule reveal video could be entertaining, but the Bulls social media team proved me wrong. Hand these people an Oscar.