Zach LaVine is set to make his Bulls debut Saturday against the Pistons

SHARE Zach LaVine is set to make his Bulls debut Saturday against the Pistons
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Had it been up to guard Zach LaVine, his Bulls debut would have come a day after his surgeon cleared him to start practicing in November.

Heck, if LaVine had his way, the start of the regular season would have been just fine.

But Saturday against the Pistons will have to do.

After meeting with LaVine, team doctors and the coaching staff Monday, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson made the announcement Tuesday and explained the caution that will go into LaVine’s return.

LaVine, who had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February, will be limited to 20 minutes against the Pistons and won’t play in back-to-back games until further notice.

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‘‘This is the continuation and ending of his rehab,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘That’s how we’re looking at it. We’re going to continue a conservative approach with him. He has done everything at such a top level getting back ready to play, and I know he’s really anxious to.

‘‘The schedule sets up really well for Zach and us. Leading up to the All-Star break, we have just one back-to-back.

‘‘The idea will be, considering no setbacks and he’s doing well, we’ll marginally ramp up his minutes as each week goes by and see how he’s doing. He needs to play. No matter what you do in practice, he needs those game minutes.’’

How and when those 20 minutes come Saturday will be determined by coach Fred Hoiberg. There’s a case to be made to let LaVine start, so he can work with Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, but Hoiberg said LaVine’s skills work with the second unit, too.

‘‘I think he and Kris will develop a nice chemistry out there,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘They obviously have played together in Minnesota for stretches. It’s getting the right guys around Zach. Because of his ability to get into the paint, it is good to get shooting out there with him.

‘‘The good thing about Zach with his versatility is I do think he fits pretty much with everyone on this roster, and you can play different ways with him on the floor.’’

Before his injury, LaVine had developed an outside game, as well as being one of the most athletic players in the league in terms of attacking the rim. He shot 38 percent from three-point range last season and averaged 18.9 points.

The Bulls acquired LaVine and Dunn, plus the pick that turned into Markkanen, in a draft-night deal with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler. Dunn has been a force in the last month, and now it’s time to see what LaVine brings to the table.

‘‘I don’t know if I’ll start right away or come off the bench,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘It doesn’t matter to me for the first little bit. It’s about me being out there, helping the guys the way I can.

‘‘I still have the same feel for the game. I still have explosion, the same athleticism, the same speed. I feel like I worked on a couple of other things. I worked on my body. I got a little bit bigger.

‘‘There’s nothing for me to think about out there. I’m just going to go out and play the way I always have. I think it will be a good thing.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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