It looks like Zach LaVine’s Bulls debut will come in early January

SHARE It looks like Zach LaVine’s Bulls debut will come in early January
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Zach LaVine is expected to make his season debut next week. | AP Photo

Just like that, the idea of Zach LaVine making a mid-December return to the Bulls vanished.

There was more clarity Tuesday about LaVine’s return after surgery in February to repair his left anterior cruciate ligament.

Coach Fred Hoiberg said LaVine is still on an every-other-day practice schedule, and that program likely will stay in place for another 10 days to two weeks.

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LaVine then will have another obstacle to hurdle: showing he can take the grind of an every-day practice schedule.

Asked if late December or early January looks more realistic for the athletic guard, Hoiberg said: “Yeah, I think that’s accurate.

“The big thing is he needs to string together a good 10 days of practice to where he’s not going every other day. To where he’s going every day, going out there and going hard to really test his body to see where he is.

“I would say the next 10 days is not going to happen.’’

LaVine, who was wearing a brace at practice Tuesday, said the toughest part for him is staying patient. Watching his teammates drop a ninth consecutive game Monday against the Cavaliers was definitely testing that patience.

“And that’s the hard part, just sitting there watching, knowing you can help,’’ LaVine said. “I get help from the coaching staff every day. Everybody is still positive. We get the right practices in. And then I start finding my spots in practice where I can fit in, where I can play-make, where I can shoot. Once the guys get more familiar with you and figure out your game and how you play, the spots you like it at, I feel like we’ll get the chemistry down.

“You have to get practicing with your team to figure out who each guy is and how they play. I think we’ll start getting that down the next couple weeks.’’

LaVine was acquired in the Jimmy Butler draft-night trade with the Timberwolves. Last season, he averaged a career-best 18.9 points before the injury.

He instantly would give the Bulls a true shot creator and isolation player because of his athletic ability, as well as a devastating pick-and-roll combo with Lauri Markkanen. At the same time, the Bulls want him for the long term, so the idea of rushing him back to help a 3-19 team makes no sense.

Even if LaVine is getting itchy to return.

“This isn’t a losing situation,’’ LaVine said of the Bulls. “We might not have the best record right now, but we don’t have that outlook on our team. We’re coming in, and we’re positive. We go at each other. We’re looking to improve. We don’t have that loser mentality. I know I’m not a loser. They’re not losers. We’re in the right state of mind.’’

NOTE: Nikola Mirotic will make the two-city trip to Indianapolis and Charlotte. Though he’s ruled out of the game against the Pacers, if he makes it through practice Thursday with no setbacks, he could make his season debut against the Hornets.

Mirotic has been on the shelf since a practice altercation with Bobby Portis put him in the hospital with a concussion and two broken bones in his face.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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