Chicago Bulls fans rejoice! In a press conference earlier this afternoon, John Paxson, EVP of Basketball Operations for the Bulls, announced that Zach LaVine will make his Bulls debut this Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. This decision came after Bulls executives, medical staff, LaVine, and LaVine’s agent met last night to discuss the conclusion of LaVine’s 11-month rehab of a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) in his left knee.
Paxson declared that LaVine will initially play 20 minutes per game, but his return and continued role in the lineup will be re-evaluated on a “week-by-week” basis. Barring any setbacks, Paxson said that LaVine’s minutes will be marginally increased, likely beginning after the NBA All-Star break on February 16-18. Although LaVine is considered to be one of the more promising stars on the team, Paxson commented that LaVine’s minutes will not be strategically saved for late game situations. Rather, he and Fred Hoiberg, head coach of the Bulls, are going to discuss this Thursday how LaVine’s minutes will be distributed, and whether he will initially start or come off the bench. The 22-year-old star has not played since injuring his knee against the Detroit Pistons on February 3, 2017, which required him to get surgery on February 14 of last year.
LaVine, a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (2015, 2016), came to Chicago in a draft-day trade, along with Kris Dunn and a draft pick used to select Lauri Markkanen. In exchange, the Bulls shipped perennial all-star Jimmy Butler and a draft pick used to select Justin Patton to Minnesota.
Often with torn ACL’s, a major concern is that an athlete’s jumping ability and explosiveness will be a shadow of what it once was upon returning to the court. However, LaVine has been putting home windmill dunks since November of last year.
Some suspect that Kris Dunn, the team’s go-to scorer in late-game situations, may have a hard time adjusting to LaVine’s scoring presence in the lineup. However, Dunn, being familiar with LaVine’s play prior to injury, does not seem concerned in the slightest. He told NBC Sport’s Vincent Goodwill “I understand his game.” “If he gets the ball off the rim or somebody passes to him in transition, let him go. I’m going to find my way. And if I have the ball, he’s going to find his way. We know how to feed off each other. We know how to read each other. We’ve played with each other. It’s not a difficult thing for us,” Dunn said.
The Bulls host the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, January 13 at 7 p.m. CST at the United Center, in what should be an exciting debut for budding star Zach LaVine.