Chicago Bulls All-Star guard Zach LaVine is expected to miss several games after entering into the NBA’s health and safety protocol, sources told ESPN.
The Bulls called off practice Thursday because of health and safety protocol concerns, the team said.
Indeed, the Bulls were supposed to practice today even after playing a game last night, and had been “bemoaning the lack of practice time” since a trade deadline saw them trying to quickly integrate several new players with heretofore pretty disastrous results.
The thing is, every team this season, especially in the compressed second half of the schedule, has gone through some shit. And they’re all, rightfully, complaining about it. The Bulls actually had some good fortune these past few weeks being relatively all available and encountering teams that weren’t. So the fact that they weren’t able to bank away a few wins is pretty devastating.
They still should make the play-in just fine. As much as they don’t really show it on the court lately, the Bulls are trying to win, which puts them a level above Toronto, Washington, and Cleveland.
But that said, there was supposed to be some immediate dividends in this team performing better and perhaps moving up in the seedings, potentially to where they’d only need to win one play-in game to make the playoffs or get a placing outright. That seems extremely unlikely now, as LaVine’s absence will be a setback not only in terms of record but in how they actually play together as best as possible heading into that play-in tournament.
In the short-term, ‘several games’ certainly means LaVine missing the weekend back-to-back with Memphis and Cleveland. Then there’s Monday in Boston, another back-to-back (Cavs, Hornets) then if he’s not back by the following weekend, that’ll mean heading without him to a road series of two games in Miami.
Hopefully this is a minimum absence and LaVine himself doesn’t suffer from symptoms. Heck it may even get his ankle better. Truth is, LaVine hasn’t been at that SUPERMAX level since the All-Star break, including a pretty lengthy shooting slump in the games since Vucevic joined him in the starting lineup. There have been flurries like his 39-point first half against the Hawks or last night’s desperate comeback attempt, but overall he has not played nearly as well as he was earlier in the season. We can’t know whether that was the ankle, or the dynamics of new high-usage teammates, or just general regression from a historically-high TrueShooting+Usage combination, and worse is that we are now further delayed in figuring that out as he’ll miss time.
It should go without saying that despite LaVine’s struggles, the team will struggle to replace his production. Garrett Temple just returned off his own injury last night, and I suppose could be inserted in as starting SG. Troy Brown will continue to play more. Coby White will keep at least as many minutes as he has gotten, and that may be a bad thing given how he’s performed recently. I guess, ugh, Denzel Valentine will have to play more to provide non-Coby shot creation. Does Javonte Green get minutes? Ryan Arcidiacono? This is a good reminder why you shouldn’t just ignore the end of your roster for a whole year.
Bulls are a bad team right now, and this is bad news. I really thought the days of insufferable tank talk were over after the trade, but the fact that their own pick this year is top-4 protected, their recent performance, and now this means it’ll be back. I still don’t think it’s particularly necessary: the Bulls don’t seem to need to ‘try’ to lose. If they keep playing like this, the losses will happen naturally.