The ever-changing timeline for Zach LaVine’s return takes another hit

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MILWAUKEE — OK, so maybe early January was a bit ambitious.

One day after vice president of basketball operations John Paxson appeared on The Score (670-AM) to all but walk back the return date of rehabbing guard Zach LaVine, coach Fred Hoiberg reiterated the company line Tuesday of operating with extreme caution.

‘‘He’s obviously got a lot of hurdles to clear yet in this process,’’ Hoiberg said of LaVine, who still is recovering from surgery in February to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Hoiberg said LaVine went through a full practice with the G League’s Windy City Bulls and would stay on schedule to take part in six consecutive practices starting Saturday.

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‘‘That’s going to really be like his training camp,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘But it’s going to be good to get him back for consecutive days of full-contact practice. We’ll see how he responds.

‘‘He’s excited. Obviously, with the setback with his back [two weeks ago], that was something that was very disappointing to him. It was hard to have to sit out after making some progress early on once he got cleared for the contact. To get full clearance again and be out there for full contact on consecutive days is a big step for him.’’

Paxson again said the chances of LaVine playing in several G League games was likely, so the third week of January might be a more realistic timetable for his return.

Either way, Hoiberg said LaVine’s return should be seamless from an X’s and O’s standpoint.

‘‘The system we put in, a lot of that had him in mind for when he was healthy and back on the floor,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘It just happened to be a pretty good system for Justin [Holiday], and Denzel [Valentine] has had his moments in it, as well.

‘‘When we were putting this system together in the summer and back in the fall, it had Zach in mind for when we did get him back.’’

Voices carry

Power forward Bobby Portis and Hoiberg joined the Bulls the same season — 2015-16 — and Portis said the evolution of his coach has been interesting to watch.

‘‘It’s been fun to see him grow as a coach,’’ Portis said. ‘‘You see him yell more, trying to get things out of his players even more. Then there’s him putting us in great offensive sets for all of us to score.

‘‘I feel like that’s what is going to help us out. Fred has been doing a great job of putting us in position to score and putting us in great positions to close out games.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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