Zach LaVine is recovering from a foot injury that sidelined the Bulls star as trade rumors swirl around his potential departure from Chicago.
We’re following all LaVine-related news.
February 8: Zach LaVine has season-ending right foot surgery
The team announced LaVine late last week. He will undergo surgery after he and his agency, Klutch Sports Group, consulted with the team and outside medical personnel. The two-time All-Star is expected to be sidelined for four to six months.
His decision to undergo surgery eliminated the Bulls’ chances of trading him before Thursday’s deadline and created longer-term questions for the team.
“I think we have a great relationship with Zach, a great relationship with his representation at Rich Paul,” said Arturas Karnisovas, vice president of basketball operations. “I think we always work together and I think his thoughts are always about the team. He’s trying to win. And when he’s healthy, he’s trying to win.”
He said the Bulls were “better with Zach on the team.”
LaVine, who will turn 29 in March, missed 17 games from November 30 to January 3 due to inflammation in his right foot. The Bulls, who had a slow start to the season, went 10-7 without him.
January 19: LaVine is out at least a week with a right ankle injury
LaVine’s return to the court lasted only six games before hitting a hitch. The guard sprained his ankle in Thursday’s win over the home team Toronto Raptors and will be sidelined for at least a week, according to Bulls PR.
That means he will miss Saturday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies and could miss all of next week’s away games against the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles and Portland Trail Blazers.
The injury occurred when LaVine twisted his ankle after falling on Jontay Porter’s foot in the third quarter.
LaVine did not hesitate to take himself out of the game and go to the locker room for treatment. Hobbling with minimal weight on his right foot, he was visibly frustrated as he grabbed a spare towel and tossed it onto an empty chair on the bench.
For a moment, the Bulls appeared to have avoided a crisis as LaVine returned less than 10 minutes later. He returned to the game with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
But this relief did not last long. LaVine missed two field goal attempts and assisted on a Patrick Williams three-pointer in four minutes before being withdrawn from the game. LaVine did not start the fourth quarter, then entered the game just 2:20 into the game before being quickly pulled again for Ayo Dosunmu.
After the game, coach Billy Donovan said LaVine “didn’t move well” and never returned to full speed after the injury. LaVine failed to score a point in less than seven minutes on the court following his debut.
Faced with LaVine’s injury, the Bulls have two-fold concerns.
First of all, the team is already struggling to manage a large number of injuries. Torrey Craig is still sidelined with a sprained plantar fascia. Dosunmu (shoulder) and Patrick Williams (ankle) are managing issues that have kept them in and out of the lineup. Losing LaVine would be another blow, especially if his absence extends beyond the next four games.
But the biggest dilemma for the Bulls is how to stimulate a trade market (almost non-existent so far) around a player struggling to stay on the court while posting one of the lowest-scoring seasons of his career.
LaVine has been unselfish throughout his return, playing almost too respectfully, averaging 16.8 points and 5.7 assists over the last seven games.
There are three weeks until the trade deadline. Can LaVine stay healthy enough by then to convince another front office that he’s worth a blockbuster trade?
Jan. 5: LaVine faces questions and heavy expectations in return
LaVine will play his first game in 38 days Friday against the Charlotte Hornets Returning from right foot injury. The Bulls went 10-7 in his absence, somewhat offsetting the dismal 5-14 start that had put the season in doubt in the early weeks.
But after a morning taping at the Lawyer Center, LaVine did not want to talk about his records or questions about his status.
“My main goal is to come here and get back to playing,” he said. “If I had let my thoughts affect me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I could care less about what people think of me. I know who I am and what I do. “I know what I have to do is go out there and provide for the team and help us win, so that’s all I’m trying to focus on.”
For LaVine, Friday’s game will be the first opportunity to try to shape an improved style of play that has strengthened the team’s positive record during the 17 games he has missed.
Jan. 3: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports ‘no market’ for LaVine ahead of Friday’s expected return
The risks are clear if LaVine returns for the Bulls against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
After responding well to another high-intensity contact workout on Wednesday, coach Billy Donovan said ahead of Wednesday’s game against New York that LaVine was trending positively toward a return on Friday. However, when he returns, LaVine will face uncertainty regarding a potential trade from the Bulls.
LaVine has been dogged by trade rumors since November when the guard didn’t deny a report that he was interested in being traded. This was the first time in LaVine’s seven years with the Bulls that he expressed interest in leaving the Bulls, albeit indirectly through Klutch Sports agent Rich Paul.
However, getting a trade from Chicago may be easier than expected. Ahead of Wednesday’s game, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on “NBA Countdown” that the Bulls do not have any current trade partners.
“There is no market for Zach LaVine right now,” Wojnarowski said. “They might have to be happy to finally find a team to take on his contract.”
The market for LaVine continues to be a point of contention throughout the NBA. USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt reported Wednesday that LaVine is still attracting interest from the Los Angeles Lakers, who have been at the forefront of any discussion surrounding a guard trade since the start of the season. However, Wojnarowski and others around the league say there is no market for the guard and rule out possible trades to teams previously linked to LaVine, such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.
What’s clear is that LaVine has a lot to play for, whether he hopes to stay or leave.
LaVine posted the worst start to the season of his career before leaving the team due to injury. The player, who averaged 21 points and 3.4 assists per game, shot a career-low 33.6% from three-point range and had difficulty accelerating the offense. The Bulls made strides on both ends of the court immediately following LaVine’s departure, raising new questions about what impact he could have on other rosters in the league.
And the Bulls are largely stymied in their attempt to trade LaVine by the $215 million max contract they signed LaVine to through 2022. Considering the caliber of his scoring ability, it’s clear that LaVine would be a more attractive prospect if he agreed to a more flexible deal. But few teams in the league are in a position to tailor their rosters to a max player of any quality, especially a player in flux like LaVine.
Donovan said it was unclear whether LaVine would be on a minutes restriction if he returned Friday. But no matter how much playing time he is given, the guard will need to send two urgent messages with his play; first, that he can still run the Bulls offense, and second, that he is a valuable asset for teams to consider ahead of February 2nd. 8 trade deadline.
Jan. 2: LaVine could return as early as Friday’s home game against the Charlotte Hornets
LaVine is on track to return to the Bulls next week after receiving a “very, very good” response to his first two days of contact workouts with the G League affiliate Windy City Bulls, coach Billy Donovan said Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“The only report I’ve gotten is that everything is going very, very well,” Donovan said. “He responded well when he came back this morning and we’ll see how he responds tomorrow.”
LaVine participated in a “full-scale” workout with the Windy City on Monday, then had a more moderate contact workout and training day on Tuesday. He is expected to take part in another “fairly intense” training session on Wednesday, followed by a lighter day on Thursday.
Although Donovan did not set an exact return date, he said LaVine could prepare for Friday’s game against the Hornets at the United Center if he gets clearance from the medical team.
“I don’t want to ignore it,” Donovan said. “The part we’re most concerned about is when he has to make all these cuts and how he responds. And he responded well. We’re past that now and it’s accelerating now.
“I don’t know how many days the medical staff wanted to see him because he was out of games 15, 16, 17. What do they think is enough time for him to get his legs back under him? That would be it.”
The Bulls have a favorable schedule for LaVine to return next week. After away games at Philadelphia and New York on Tuesday and Wednesday, they will play three of their next four games at home before heading on a week-long trip to San Antonio, Cleveland and Toronto.
If LaVine does not play on Friday, he could return on Monday against the Hornets, at home against the Houston Rockets on January 10, or on the road against the Golden State Warriors on January 12.
“I don’t know what the exact date will be, but the way it’s progressing now and having full-fledged contact is very, very positive,” Donovan said.
January 1: LaVine assigned to Windy City Bulls for contact workouts
Zach LaVine, who missed 15 games due to a right foot injury, is close to returning to the Bulls.
On Monday, the two-time All-Star guard was assigned to the team’s G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, to begin contact practices this week.
LaVine began increasing his activities on December 26, testing his comfort level with lateral movements and cutting exercises. After getting through the past week without any setbacks, he will begin contact practices with the Windy City, the final hurdle to overcome for a return to play.
Although LaVine has traveled for all but one away game with the Bulls since his initial injury, he will stay home and participate in practice after a two-game trip to Philadelphia and New York this week.
The Bulls appear to have found a winning identity with their current roster, but They have yet to test how LaVine would adapt to this style of play. And after starting the season under the spotlight due to reports of his interest in a trade, LaVine’s absence has caused his status with the team to rise even further as the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches.
The Associated Press contributed to this story