Bulls’ Zach LaVine hopes knee injury management plan is in the past – NBC Chicago

LaVine hopes knee injury management plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After four of their first 12 games of the season, the Chicago Bulls’ home-and-away game this weekend marks their first since Nov. 6-7.

But that’s not news due to a scheduling oddity that sees the Bulls switch to Atlanta against the Hawks on Sunday less than 11 hours after doing so in Chicago against the Mavericks on Saturday.

It’s news because after a month of disappearing from this story, Zach LaVine’s availability was once again a question after the Bulls’ 144-115 win on Saturday.

In three of the Bulls’ first four consecutive games of the season, the two-time All-Star has played in at least one of two games as part of a fluid injury management plan that began with feeling left knee discomfort . at the end of training camp. Billy Donovan still describes this management as a day-to-day process, coordinated in conjunction with LaVine and the Bulls’ medical staff, and taking into account LaVine’s workload and physical condition.

But LaVine, who has always maintained that he wants to play every game, slammed the door on a possible rest day in Atlanta.

“Yeah,” LaVine said flatly when asked if he would play. “No matter how many minutes he played tonight (against the Mavericks), I was playing both ways. I feel good.”

Lo and behold, when the Bulls’ first injury report came out Sunday morning, LaVine was not listed.

Even before LaVine logged just 27 minutes — and none in the fourth quarter — of Saturday’s game, that was to be expected given that back-to-back streak is sandwiched by two nights off each Thursday and Friday of last week and Monday and Tuesday of this one.

But it’s clear that LaVine hopes knee management will also be a thing of the past. Especially because his inconsistent availability hasn’t helped him acclimate to start 2022-23.

Indeed, LaVine struggled to meet his standards earlier in the season, especially finishing at the basket and finding his outside shot consistently. Through every peak and valley, he reiterated that he is finding his rhythm after a disjointed offseason in which he underwent knee surgery and was limited in typical time playing 5v5 .

Although the sample size is small, recent evidence of this pace is beginning to emerge.

In five games since winning a six-game streak shooting less than 41% from the field, LaVine is averaging 24.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and two steals all while shooting 38.9% from 3 points and 75.9% from the restricted area. . Even removing the first of those games — a blowout loss to the Suns in which most of his stats were accrued with the game out of control — LaVine’s averages in four December games are solid: 25.8 points, 6 .3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 43.3% from 3-point range and 77.3% at the rim.

That span includes an elite night against the Kings (10-on-10 in the restricted area), scorching 3-point shooting performances against the Wizards, and a high level of defensive activity throughout. LaVine was therefore unfazed on Saturday, which ended a six-game 20-point streak.

“It was not perfect to come back, obviously. But I feel really good right now,” LaVine said. “Get back into rhythm, put my legs under me. Shot feels good. I’ve had a little 20-point streak going so I’m going to consider that the same tonight, I just didn’t play in the fourth.

It is difficult to quantify the “rhythm” or the “feel”. But LaVine knows it when he sees it.

“It’s just the whole game, how your body feels,” he said. “I’m a rhythm player, always have been. And getting into that rhythm, that timing, is something big.

“I’m talented enough to find it throughout the game, but consistently, from one to four quarters, I feel good and the timing, the pace, it’s been good for the last two weeks and (I) want just keep it going.”

Sunday marks an opportunity to do so. In the only consecutive game LaVine has finished so far this season, he followed up a 20-point fourth quarter in a comeback victory over the Brooklyn Nets by shooting 4 for 16 in a rout of the Charlotte Hornets at home.

Stay tuned to see what he has in store this time. And if it’s up to LaVine, he’ll be there for every game to come to continue the process.

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Bulls' Zach LaVine hopes knee injury management plan is in the past – NBC Chicago

NBC Chicago

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