If you recall, before the All-Star Break Zach LaVine made us all worry a ton when he went to see a specialist for his knee and missed several games to do so.
Then after participating in the weekend exhibition, we all had a good laugh with our sigh of relief:
Zach LaVine, with a laugh, when asked if knee was all good during All-Star game: "Did I look OK? ... The 360 looked alright."— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) February 21, 2022
But now I think we should’ve been paying more attention to LaVine’s initial assessment.
LaVine said he had knee drained, received PRP and cortisone injections. Called it "manageable"— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) February 19, 2022
"It'll (the treatment) get me through the end of the season, and then in the offseason I'll be able to take care of it and get myself to 100 percent"
Because the Bulls star reiterated on Tuesday that this is going to be a problem for the rest of the season:
“I mean my knee isn’t 100 percent. That’s just the reality of it....at 80 percent, 70 percent.
“I’ll deal with it later. We don’t know what that is going to be and how exactly we’re going to approach it. But it is pretty much like a bandaid,” LaVine admitted. “It’s making me feel better for the time being and getting me to a place where I feel comfortable playing and being effective on the court over this last stretch. And then the offseason, I’ll deal with whatever I have to.”
“If it didn’t feel sturdy or structurally right, I wouldn’t be playing,” LaVine said. “I don’t want to say I’m not dumb, but you know, I’m not going to go out there and risk really [expletive] something up. It’s a little restrictive motion, some pain here and there, but everybody has to deal with that. I’m OK dealing with that and still going out and playing.’
LaVine further emphasized that this is not something that is going to keep him from playing. So that’s altogether good news, and he’s right that him at 70% is better than most wings in the league.
But he hasn’t been spectacular:
LaVine has always played through pain, believing he can perform at high level/affect winning even sub-100%— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) March 2, 2022
In 12 games (in-and-out of lineup) since GSW on 1/14, which he cites: 23.2 ppg, 5.4 apg, 5 rpg on 44.4/35.3/86.5% splits (58% TS). Great for most, sub-standard for Zach
Anecdotally, it seems like his defense has slipped too. Though a lot of that could just be him being further exposed with the lead defensive guards still not available. No real update there, unfortunately. Both are starting to work out, but are weeks away from being evaluated for potential return to game action.
Back to LaVine, there was also talk in his comments this week surrounding his contract status, as he’s an unrestricted free agent heading into this offseason. I think even if he performs at this relatively-lower level, or (ugh) suffers a setback and has to miss time, he will still receive a max contract from the Bulls. However, ‘this level’ would likely keep him from making the All-NBA team this year, and he wouldn’t then be eligible for an even larger raise to SUPERMAX. So that’s a silver lining for the Bulls, who then wouldn’t have to uncomfortably offer less than the absolute highest possible due negotiating, it’s just the league rules.
For the rest of this season though, there is all black clouds. The dream of this team being fully healthy just isn’t going to be realized. The NBA season is a grind, and you hear that enough to where it should be expected. But it still kinda stinks that this LaVine injury, plus the still to be determined timetables for Ball, Caruso, and Patrick Williams, and whatever happens in the stretch run, means that the Bulls are likely to face true adversity against realizing their full potential in the playoffs, and it’s not something that will just go away in 6-8 weeks.