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Zach LaVine eases into return for the Chicago Bulls

Will Gottlieb Avatar
January 6, 2024

With a 104-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Chicago Bull (16-21) are now 1-0 in the post-Zach LaVine injury era.

In 29 minutes off the bench, LaVine scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 1-of-5 three-pointers, and had four rebounds and four assists. After missing the last 17 games with a right foot injury, that was exhausting.

“I’mma sleep so well tonight, y’all don’t understand,” LaVine said with a smile. “I had a couple rebounds where I could have pushed the ball on the break and I was just looking for DeMar and Coby, like I’m just gonna go to the corner real fast and just catch my breath and get a good break. I’ll get my wind over the next couple games.”

Whether for stamina or for the purposes of trying to fit in, it was clear that LaVine was easing into the game. It even felt like he could have been more aggressive with the opportunities he had, but opted to take things slowly. He didn’t want to force the issue.

“A couple of times, guys told me to shoot it,” LaVine said. “You know, obviously they know what I do, but I just wanted to feel my way into the game. I’ve missed a little bit more than a month. I can pack a pickup offensively when I need to, but I wanted to just get up and down the court a couple of times.”

But ahead of the half, LaVine got a couple in-rhythm shots that had him looking like he belonged.

LaVine has been saying all the right things. It’s now time to put pen to paper. And to his credit, he did what he needed to do, particularly on the defensive end, where he moved his feet to cut off drives and helped hold the Hornets below 100 points.

It will take some time for LaVine to get his legs under him. But the bigger question of whether he can prove to be a productive part of the new-look Bulls remains to be seen.

“You get a different perspective, I think when you watch the game and you’re not playing,” Billy Donovan said pre-game. “You’re not emotionally in every possession, you can take a step back. He sees what these guys have done and how they’ve played. And I think his mindset is he wants to come in an enhance it, make it better, contribute. Like I said, the skillset that he has, he should fit in fine to that.”

LaVine has been supportive of his team as they have undergone a transformation with him on the sideline. But whether it is to stay in Chicago or to market himself to suitors around the league, LaVine has to fit in.

That means quick decisions, shoot when open, drive, or get off the ball. He knows he can do those things well.

“Yeah,” LaVine said. “I think it just sucked that I went down when everything started clicking. It’s easy to look and see how it’s going. But you want to be out there with everybody, especially when that’s what you were working on for the last some odd months, from training camp on. It’s good that we have this good vibe and spirit.”

For now, LaVine is back. And with everything that has transpired over the last month, there had to have been a sense of relief to get back on the court and win a game.

Other notes:

  • Nikola Vucevic (adductor) also returned to action for the first time in five games. Like LaVine, he came off the bench with a minutes restriction, playing 24 total. He had 11 points no 5-of-12 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists.
  • With Patrick Williams (ankle) and Alex Caruso (neck) out of the lineup, and LaVine and Vucevic coming off the bench, Dalen Terry got his first career start, and performed admirably. Scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, Terry hit two of his four three-point attempts, had four assists and two steals, including one sequence where he ripped up Hornets forward Miles Bridges, then dropped off a behind-the-back pass to LaVine for a layup.

Up Next: Bulls fly to Charlotte for a Monday night matchup with the Hornets

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