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Zach LaVine is ahead of schedule in recovery


LOS ANGELES – Zach LaVine expressed optimism about his future with the Chicago Bulls as he returned to the bench for Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

LaVine wore walking boots while meeting with teammates for the first time since undergoing surgery for a right foot injury on Feb. 9.

LaVine described the injury as a nonunion Jones fracture; This refers to a type of fracture at the base of the fifth metatarsal where part of the fracture refuses to heal to the rest of the bone. The injury required surgery for full repair. Every conversation about undergoing the procedure was a question of “when” rather than “if,” and LaVine opted to end his season early and begin the recovery process because his pain level was high.

“It sucked, man,” LaVine said. “You never want to have surgery, I was trying to find every way not to do that. But I came to the conclusion specifically about what the doctor told me: ‘Your pain level and this thing is not going to get better on its own.’ ”

LaVine said his recovery process is “a little ahead of schedule” and that he expects the cleats to come off soon, at which point he can begin light exercises. And he plans to return to the Bulls during the preseason with the goal of being ready by opening day of next season.

“I’ll be ready to go long before then,” LaVine said. ”

LaVine will remain in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future due to the birth of his second child, which is a different priority. Her husband, Hunter, is expecting a baby in the coming weeks.

Even though he’s in Los Angeles for both surgery and recovery, LaVine said he talks to his teammates every day and is proud of the team’s comeback to get close to a winning record — they entered Saturday’s game with a chance to reach .500. They lost 112-102 for the first time since 2-2 and fell to 31-33.

The decision to undergo surgery in February extinguished months of rhetoric that had surrounded the star, whose maximum contract was $215 million for much of this season.

The foot injury began to flare up soon after LaVine requested a trade from Chicago in November, prompting questions and controversy regarding the timing of his injury and his intentions with the Bulls.

The Bulls were 10-15 in games played with LaVine this season. And their redemptive comeback from a 5-14 start didn’t begin until LaVine was sidelined for the first time due to injury in late November. The timing of this development had fans immediately asking: Are the Bulls better off without LaVine?

But LaVine ignored that concept and any insinuation that he couldn’t compete with the Bulls, who were nearing a .500 record.

“It’s not hard to readjust, especially with the way I play the game,” LaVine said. “I want to go out there and help. You never want to get hurt, but it’s not hard to see yourself out there again.”

LaVine will have to wait until the 2024-25 season to prove himself again.


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