Bulls star Zach LaVine didn’t look like himself in the win over the Timberwolves on Friday night, noticeably wincing throughout the game while lacking his normal pop. LaVine missed Saturday’s game not with the back spasms that recently kept him out two games, but with the knee injury that sidelined him even before that. Sunday then brought alarming news from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that LaVine will be seeing a specialist for further evaluation on the left knee, which is the same one he got surgically repaired to fix a torn ACL in 2017.
NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson says LaVine has been dealing with “tightness, soreness and swelling” in this knee since early January. While LaVine’s mid-January MRI on the knee after the ugly loss to the Warriors showed no structural damage and he’s still hoping to participate in All-Star festivities, Woj reports “a level of concern within the organization” about the injury. The guard obviously won’t play in the Bulls’ final two games ahead of the All-Star break against the Spurs and Kings.
The concern here is that it’s similar to a Lonzo Ball situation, where knee soreness turns into something torn that either requires surgery or would severely limit LaVine if he plays through it. We did see Joel Embiid play on a torn meniscus in the playoffs last season, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that.
While LaVine has been battling through injuries, he has also been playing very heavy minutes when he has suited up. He’s at 38.4 minutes per game in five February contests, including two games with 40-plus minutes. That’s certainly not ideal for a player dealing with these health issues, but the Bulls’ depth is shot right now because of other injuries and there were no moves made at the trade deadline to help alleviate that. It would be nice to see Chicago hit the buyout market to help out this depth situation, not only for LaVine’s sake (depending on what happens with this specialist) but for the other top guys as well who are playing huge minutes.
In addition to LaVine, we also saw Javonte Green miss Saturday’s game with a foot injury suffered on a dunk against Minnesota. Green’s MRI showed no serious damage, but he’s questionable for Monday’s game against the Spurs and is just yet another hurt Bull.
While Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams are still out for the foreseeable future, Derrick Jones Jr. surprisingly returned early against the Thunder on Sunday, but he was clearly in pain at times while playing with a splint on his injured finger before fouling out in 23 minutes. Jones is going to gut through it and try to do what he can to help this banged-up roster.
The Bulls need this All-Star break badly. Between the injuries and condensed schedule of late, this team is running on fumes. Credit to DeMar DeRozan and Co. for coming up with big performances to bank some wins, getting the Bulls to 36-21 on the season. LaVine should probably just take All-Star Weekend off at this point (or at least the game), but for now we’ll anxiously await the results of his trip to the specialist.