EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Following his workout with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday morning, former UCLA guard Zach LaVine expressed that he is ready to make the jump to the next level.
Since declaring for the draft in mid April, LaVine has received criticism for leaving UCLA despite starting just one game and averaging 9.4 points per game last season.
“(The critics) really don’t know me. Me, my agent, and my family talked about it and I am a confident person,” LaVine told Sports Out West on Wednesday at the Lakers’ training facility. “I am open to challenges and ready for the next step. They really can talk all they want to. It doesn’t affect me I am living my life.”
Although he got off to a hot start offensive scoring in double figures in nine out of the first 10 games of the season, he tailed off in production as his scoring became spotty as the year wore on and tit was especially evident in the NCAA tournament where he averaged 2.3 points on 20 percent shooting in 19 minute per game. Lavine’s lack of consistent production could also be because of Kyle Anderson starting at point guard in front of him last season.
“I am 19 years old and you go through an up and down season. At the NBA level, you go through the up and down part of the season as well,” LaVine said. “As a basketball player you got to deal with that. I feel toward of the season my jumper and playing skills started coming back. As long as the team is winning and we are rolling, I am feeling fine.”
“I started off the season shooting really hot at 60 percent from 3’s and 70 percent from the field, it’s not going to happen to a regular basketball player the whole season and we know that. You are going to come down eventually and you keep rolling from there.”
As for the chance to play with Kobe Bryant, LaVine was excited at the opportunity to play with the type of player he is.
I love his attitude, work ethic, and his killer demeanor,” LaVine. “I have looked up to him my entire life. and I feell like a lot of people have. It would be a dream come to true (to play with him).
That is not the only reason why LaVine may be excited for the chance to play for Los Angeles as he has been of the fan of the team his entire life.
“I am definitely keeping this (Lakers’) practice jersey and I might wear the shorts a lot to show everybody,” LaVine said. “I have always been a Laker fan growing up since I was younger. From Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones to Kobe and then had that losing streak not getting the playoffs and where they are at now. I know everything about the Lakers because me and my whole family like them.”
With that said, the 19-year-old feels that there are plenty of areas to improve in his game other than his impressive 46-inch vertical leap such as his ball handling skills, his defending, and getting his body strong.
“I feel like I have all the tools to defend at the one position as far as speed, quickness, and I have to get stronger of course. I am learning how to read the picks going over or under on them. I am learning the different types of defenses,” LaVine said.
I am willing to do everything a team needs me to do. If they want me to go out there and play straight defense or lock someone up, I’ll do that. If they need me to be a cheerleader on the bench, I’ll do that. If they need me to run the team I will do that as well. I am going in to win a spot and I am ready to play. Whatever happens I am going in to compete and have fun.”
All in all, LaVine feels that he can be an impact player right off the bat given the right opportunity.
“I feel like I am ready to come in and contribute,” LaVine said. “It’s up to the team. I feel like I have a great skill set. Anything they need me to do I can do it.”
LaVine stated that he has already worked out for every team in the lottery at the NBA Pre-Draft Combine last month outside of the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Sacramento Kings.
Bob Garcia IV
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