They may have won two of three since Zach LaVine was ruled out indefinitely, but don’t doubt the Chicago Bulls are anxious to get the All-Star back on the floor.
And you can bet he’s ready to return to the court even more.
LaVine was wrapping up a career season before being removed from the field, averaging career-highs almost all across the board: 27.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game.
Chicago may be 2-1 without him, but that won’t last forever.
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Donovan Gives an Update on LaVine
Following the Chicago Bulls’ win over the Boston Celtics on Monday night, head coach Billy Donovan offered up an update on Zach LaVine’s current status:
Zach LaVine (health protocols) is “extremely bored right now,” Billy Donovan says.
“That came across loud and clear,” Donovan says.
LaVine remains at home now quarantining.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) April 19, 2021
There’s yet to be a timeline given on any LaVine return, but he’s faithfully tuned into the team’s games. He posted this Instagram story after Monday’s win:
Zach LaVine remains tapped into the Chicago Bulls from home, in the league’s health and safety protocol.
— Collin Loring (@cologneloring) April 20, 2021
With just 15 games to go, each one that the guard misses could end up making or breaking the Bulls’ playoff hopes.
As of now they remain the Eastern Conference’s 10th-seed, and final play-in team.
Donovan’s update may not be as thorough as fans had hoped, but the fact that the team’s head coach and their All-Star remain in constant communication should be an increasingly positive sign.
This Stretch Could Determine LaVine’s Future
It’s hard enough to have to go through what was hoped to be a playoff push without (arguably) your best player.
To make matters worse, reports have surfaced that Zach LaVine won’t entertain extension offers this offseason.
From A. Sherrod Blakely at Bleacher Report:
…That’s why rival executives anticipate the Bulls will try to lock up LaVine with a contract extension (he will make $19.5 million this season and next) but know he’ll likely let his deal lapse, become an unrestricted free agent and sign what will be a more lucrative multiyear max pact…
It’s possible that how well the Chicago Bulls perform in LaVine’s absence could determine his confidence level in the franchise and willingness to sign an extension or long-term deal.
Whether that’s fair, I’m not to say.
Fortunately, the Bulls have played rather well, now boasting a 2-1 record since he was ruled out. If he comes back and they’re still in contention for the play-in tournament, that’s as good an outcome as you can hope for.
For what it’s worth, veteran Garrett Temple is confident that Chicago’s defense can lead to more wins. He told reporters as much after helping lead the Bulls to the win on Monday:
Obviously, we lost a big piece in Zach, 28 (points) a game. But if we’re able to guard like we’re capable of — like (Monday) — we have enough on the other end to score…But I think the biggest thing is if we defend, we grind, we guard like we’re capable of, then we can win any game we play.
Zach LaVine’s got one year and $19.5 million left on his deal.
Chicago’s ready to pay him a premium, but is he committed to the Bulls future?
If not, the focal point of their sales pitch may end up these remaining 15 games.
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