Last March 16, the Bulls listed Zach LaVine as day to day with left knee tendinitis. He didn’t play again, missing the final 14 games.
Nobody said the same scenario will unfold when LaVine likely misses his second straight game Tuesday against the Lakers with a strained right patellar tendon. But nobody would be surprised if it does.
LaVine officially is listed as doubtful after cheap nba jerseys
not practicing again Monday, and coach Jim Boylen said the team has yet to discuss shutting down their leading scorer for the season.
But in perhaps the most telltale sign about how conservatively the Bulls will handle LaVine, Boylen even muted his recent stance of trying to make meaningless games feel like playoff games.
“What we’re hoping for is every day he responds and gets a little better,” he said. “But it’s not the situation or the time of the year to push a guy to try and get a certain seed or home court. That’s as simply as I can put it. I think you know my personality. I want to win every game and play our ass off every game. But we’ve got to be smart too.’’
After scoring 24 points in Friday’s home loss to the Pistons, LaVine sat out Sunday’s matinee rematch in Detroit. The Bulls lost that game too and are 4-4 in games LaVine has missed. Sunday marked his first absence since Jan. 30.
LaVine enjoyed a dominant February, averaging 24.5 points, 5.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 53.2 percent. That included 49 percent 3-point shooting.
Overall, LaVine is averaging career bests in scoring (23.8 points), rebounds (4.6), assists (4.4) and shooting (46.8 percent). But as much as LaVine hates missing games, he’s taking the long view as well.
“I want to be out there regardless,” he said. “But there’s no reason to go out there and try to risk anything right now. It’s not smart.”
LaVine called himself “day to day” and said he’ll undergo treatment often. He downplayed his general wear and tear, which has featured him playing through troublesome ankles and a thigh bruise.
“I’m used to playing heavy minutes,” LaVine said. “So I think (the knee) is just a little irritated.”
When the Bulls shut down LaVine last season, they were focused on draft lottery positioning. Plus, his soreness originated in his surgically repaired knee, and last season was viewed mostly as the final step of his rehabilitation from a torn left ACL.
This is different. It’s the other knee. And the Bulls are four games clear of the Hawks for the league’s fourth-worst record.
If LaVine sat the remainder of the season, it could aid the Bulls’ chances to crack the bottom three and garner a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, although the Knicks, Suns and Cavaliers have held those spots firmly. The Bulls play March 18 in Phoenix against the Suns, who recently knocked off the Bucks and Warriors.
Boylen cited the need to generate offense without LaVine, calling LaVine’s “ability in a broken-play situation to get you a bucket” a “gift.” He said the Bulls will need better ball movement and offensive discipline in LaVine’s absence.
“We look at it in a short term and we look at it in a long term,” Boylen said. “We’re not going to jeopardize anyone’s future, our future, for one win. That being said, we have to manage being competitive and fighting and caring.
“It breaks my heart when Zach has worked at it. He’s been very coachable, teachable. He has grown. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do. It’s been well-documented, we’ve had some pretty good film sessions on what I expect.
“So it’s painful, man. It’s like your family when somebody’s doing really well and then something happens where they can’t do that anymore. Hopefully, he can come back and help us.”