Q&A: Zach LaVine

Courtesy of NBPA

NBPA: How’s rehab going?

Zach LaVine: Everything is going well. I have progress right now, doing everything I can do to get better—shooting, strengthening, lifting, all that good stuff, coming back better from where I was. So it’s just enjoying the offseason and the main thing is just getting back.

NBPA: You posted a video last week using the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. Was that a big accomplishment for you?

ZL: Yeah. I wasn’t on social media for a while, just focusing on the knee, but then I still want to give people insight on where I’m at. I feel like it’s three months before you can start running again, and my gait and everything is normal. The doctor said my knee is as healthy as it can get at this point right now. He’s more than happy with it, so I never had any doubt of anything with it. I’m getting better with it, running a lot more and getting everything back.

NBPA: What’s your goal for when you want to get back on the court?

ZL: I just look at it to where I feel like when I’m ready and when I’m healthy, regardless I’m going to be playing, I’m going to be back to what I do. I feel like the date is not as important as when you feel physically healthy.

NBPA: Many people think that when you tear your ACL, you immediately can’t put any weight on your leg. But you played on it for another six minutes that night. Is that crazy to you?

ZL: I didn’t even know it. I just thought I like bumped my knee a little bit.

NBPA: Have you watched the game since to see what you were able to do?

ZL: Yeah, I’ve watched that a lot. I got a rebound, an assist. I thought I hyperextended my knee and I couldn’t really explode off of it, but I thought that would just come back with running and stuff like that. But it hurt. I feel like I’m a pretty mentally tough kid. I’ve been through injuries. I didn’t want to come out of the game.

At that point in the game, I had [20 points] halfway through the third quarter, too, so I’m, like, “Yeah, I’m definitely not coming out. I think I can get 35, 40 if I keep playing [laughs].” And then I did a little shifting and it didn’t feel good, and that’s why I was, like, “I might have to go to the back and check this out.” And I got the terrible news, but it’s sports. You’ve just got to deal with it. I’m all good.

NBPA: Did you ask your doctor about how you were able to play that long with a torn ACL?

ZL: We talked about it. All I had was the ACL damage. I had everything else in my knee that they said it looked like I definitely played basketball. They said my knee looked very well, so that was very happy for me. And they said that the ACL is the thing that provides stability for your knee to go back and forth. So if you have strong quads, strong legs, I feel like working out being a pro athlete, you obviously have strength.

But when it gets torn, the nerve goes away, so then you stop feeling it. So the first pain in the beginning kind of hurts laying down. That’s when I got back up, limped it off. After that, I felt like I was cool [laughs]. I don’t know if it was a little bit of mental toughness or it just didn’t hurt. But I’m just glad that nothing else happened and I’m on the right path again, and everything is going to be fine.

NBPA: You’re like a scientific case study.

ZL: [laughs] Yeah. I played six minutes on that torn ACL. I don’t know [laughs].”

NBPA: Your teammate Ricky Rubio once had a torn ACL. What kind of advice has he given you?

ZL: He said it’s a long process, but just takes time to get back healthy. He said I was ahead of schedule to where I was walking at like two or three weeks after the surgery. He was really surprised, and I feel like that’s just youth as well. So I’ve been very happy with my results and every little bit of research I’ve dug up, I’m taking it all in stride.

NBPA: What’s been motivating for you from the fan messages you’ve received during your recovery?

ZL: I appreciate everybody. I’ve got a lot of fans that DM me on Twitter or Facebook, and a whole bunch of fan mail I’ve still got to go through. I try to send all that out, and I just appreciate all the kind words and people really caring. It’s really cool and sometimes you don’t realize how many people actually are a fan for you and respect what you do, so it was an eye-opener and I appreciate everybody that does that. I’m just a kid that loves basketball. The way you get touched is really cool.

NBPA: Sometimes when players go through long injuries, they pick up new interests. How have you passed the time?

ZL: It’s been the same thing—just trying to get better, Destiny, watch movies, go work out, play with my dog. Other than that, it’s just the same old, same old.

NBPA: What are your team and individual goals for next season?

ZL: Team goals, obviously we want to get to the playoffs. And for me, I feel like I’ve improved every year, I’ve improved on different parts of my game and I want to continue to do that. I don’t think anything’s holding me back from that. I’m doing stuff now to help me and I don’t think there’s any setback or any differences with me. I’m on this great path to where I want to go in my career and continue to get better. It’s a progress.

NBPA: What awards and accomplishments would mean a lot to you in your career?

ZL: Obviously everybody wants to be an All-Star, an all-league player. You want to be All-Defensive, All-NBA, stuff like that, MVP. And you want to do the best you can. We’re all so competitive in this game and we strive for greatness, and that’s the same thing I’m trying to do.

NBPA: By the way, your friend from the Seattle area, Isaiah Thomas, had a memorable playoffs. What were your thoughts watching him play?

ZL: The things he’s going through are ridiculous—how mentally tough he is and how much respect he gets from the whole league. I don’t know how he’s going through it. He’s a great player in this league and we can all take something away from what a human can do going through immense stress. It’s ridiculous.

NBPA: So today you’re at the Gameplay World Premiere of Destiny 2. The event is inside an airplane hangar?

ZL: Yeah, this place is huge. It’s incredible. It’s a big tent and they got all these games everywhere, and these little sections and you get to play this new game. It’s great.

NBPA: How did the opportunity come about to attend?

ZL: I thank my agency, [BDA Sports]. They hooked it up for me. I’ve always been a big fan of Destiny. I’ve gone to the studios [of the game’s developer, Bungie] a couple times and they love me. They’re from Seattle. So I went in there a couple times, met a lot of the top guys. So today is really cool and it’s a good experience.

NBPA: Are you playing against fans there?

ZL: A little bit. Honestly I can walk around here. A lot of people recognize me, but a lot of the guys are so into the games. I can walk around like a regular person around here. I like it. So I introduced myself to some people and I’m playing against a lot of the Destiny community, and it’s cool.

NBPA: How did you first get into Destiny?

ZL: To tell you the truth, it was my rookie year. I was chilling at my apartment, saw this new game came out and fell in love with it. Ever since then, I’ve been playing it for the last three years. And they’re coming out with a second game now, and it’s off the charts.

NBPA: What do you like about the new game?

ZL: It’s totally different. They’ve got different characters, different abilities. It’s a totally new story mode, and new villains and everything. I sound like a little bit of a gamer right now, but I like it [laughs]. It’s crazy how they can keep developing new things to keep the fans intrigued. So the way that they can put it all together I feel like is really cool.

NBPA: What impresses you about the story mode?

ZL: It’s off the charts. It’s a first-person shooter. It’s an advanced future—in the future with aliens and villains—and there’s stuff to upgrade your player. It’s so diverse, so many people can play it. There are so many ways you can play the game. It’s really cool.

NBPA: During the season, are you playing against teammates?

ZL: I try to. I play against a lot of the dudes just online, some of the fans that know me. I put my gamer tag out there every once in a while, which has my nickname, “Young Hollywood.” People can add me on it. So I accept all friend requests, everything. So I try to tell people, “I’m just me. I’m just a regular dude.”

NBPA: Does an experience with a gamer stand out?

ZL: I played against some random fans. They were actually talking about me and I let it go for a little bit. And then I was, like, “Oh yeah, he’s pretty good. His dunks are off the charts.” And then you kind of get to know people doing the friend requests. And they’re, like, “Oh yeah, where are you from?” Then I told them, “I’m actually Zach LaVine.” They didn’t believe me, so I went and put a tweet out and I’m, like, “I’m playing with these dudes on Destiny right now.” And they freaked out, so it was pretty funny.

NBPA: If there’s one Destiny challenger in the NBA, who is it?

ZL: I don’t know a lot of people who play Destiny in the NBA. I just found out that Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert play, so maybe them. I’m not the best, but I’m pretty damn good.

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