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Zach LaVine’s tumultuous season is officially over.
Prior to Saturday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings, the Chicago Bulls announced that LaVine will undergo season-ending surgery on his right foot.
“After seeking additional medical opinions, in consultation with the Chicago Bulls training and medical staff, guard Zach LaVine and Klutch Sports Group have elected surgery on LaVine’s right foot as the next step in his recovery process. Surgery is anticipated the week of February 5,” the release from the team read. “LaVine will be out 4-6 months. Updates will be provided as necessary.”
The wording in the statement suggests that undergoing this procedure was a decision made by LaVine and his camp, not necessarily by the Bulls.
“It’s definitely Zach’s decision,” Billy Donovan said during his pre-game media availability at the United Center.
“He made a decision that I think he thought was best for his health,” Donovan continued. “I really feel like he did everything he could to try to get himself back to playing. I think the discomfort in his foot was at a place where I think he just didn’t feel like he had any chance to being himself and really contributing.”
After the team started 5-14, LaVine missed an extended stretch of 17 games with right foot inflammation, during which time the Bulls revived their season by winning 10 games. After returning for seven games, LaVine was injured again, this time a rolled ankle. Though the ankle injury was resolved, the foot inflammation re-surfaced.
“The ankle got resolved,” Donovan said. “It’s it was his foot that became the issue. In the beginning it was his ankle and his foot. And then once the ankle situation went away so the hope was okay, he’s gonna come back you know, at some point. But I think when there wasn’t a lot of response to the treatment.”
LaVine has been in the Bulls practice facility trying to get himself back to form to be able to play down the stretch of this season. When he felt that had become an impossibility, he elected for surgery. While the decision was ultimately LaVine’s, the Bulls were in support.
“I think everybody here in the organization has been very, very supportive, in terms of trying to put our heads together to figure out what’s the best course of action,” Donovan said.
“I think everybody’s been in lockstep in terms of making sure that it wasn’t necessarily an organizational decision, ‘hey, listen, he needs to do surgery’. It was like, ‘listen, this is still a problem. We need to start talking to other people as well to try to get different opinions’,” Donovan continued.
Having played only 25 of the Bulls 50 games, LaVine’s 2023-24 season has now been defined by injury and the soft trade request back in mid-November. And while this injury news doesn’t effectively change the Bulls on the court, it does have a major impact on them from a roster building standpoint.
“No that has not happened,” Donovan said of the front office coming to him with a new direction and plan for the team. “No. And I also know to like sometimes in the trade deadline, my experience has been like a lot of times when you get ten days, a week, five days out, it really starts to ramp up like 48 hours before the deadline.”
“I know it’s right around the corner, but I think in their world, it’s not around the corner if that makes sense,” he went on.
The Bulls organization is now left in an even more difficult position. Injuries have hampered the roster, forcing Coby White, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan to absorb more minutes than usual. And the team is still just barely staying afloat in the 9th seed of the Eastern Conference standings.
While LaVine appeared to be the first and only domino projected to fall, this surgery effectively shuts down any chance of the former All-Star being moved. This is not to say the Bulls will be stuck with LaVine for the final three years of his $215 million max contract, but if injuries and contract size were the barrier before this surgery decision, it’s hard to imagine teams offering more positive value to take him on.
If a LaVine trade does materialize in the future, it won’t be any time soon. So until Thursday’s trade deadline, the Bulls will have to determine whether this injury sways them off their stance of status quo.
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