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Bulls guard Zach LaVine could sit rest of season with strained right knee

Bulls guard Zach LaVine had his Monday afternoon mapped out.

Ice the knee, nap, ice the knee again.

He’s hoping for a miracle by Tuesday so he can have a chance to face LeBron James and the Lakers.

“You like playing against those dudes because it’s competition, especially [James’], probably the best player of our generation,” LaVine said. “As competitive people, you like going at him.

“That’s why I’ll try to get some ice on my knee and see how I feel.”

It could be an exercise in futility.

LaVine already is listed as doubtful, still hampered by a strained patellar in his right knee that forced him to miss his eighth game of the season Sunday.

He also might miss taking on Bradley Beal, Kawhi Leonard and other notable players in the last 14 games of the season.

Though coach Jim Boylen wouldn’t say it’s likely, there’s a real possibility that the organization shuts down LaVine for the rest of the season.

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“We have not had that discussion about the rest of the season,” Boylen said. “I think what we’re hoping for is every day he responds and gets a little better. It’s not the situation or the time of the year to push a guy to try and get a certain seed or home court. That’s as simply as I can put it. It’s not the time … we have to understand that. I think you know my personality. I want to win every game and play our ass off every game, but we’ve got to be smart too.”

Boylen was asked how hard it is for him to maintain that balance, specifically weighing LaVine’s future with winning games and developing. He said he was “struggling with it.”

“It’s hard,” Boylen said. “When I make it an individual thing with each guy for his growth, his development, his future, it helps me. But for the team, you want everybody on board, you want everybody to get better, you want to grow as a group, you want to learn together, you want to play in meaningful games, you want to be in one-point situations to get better and grow, so it’s hard. It’s really hard.”

Not that it’s easy for the 6-5 LaVine, either.

He was playing some of his best basketball of the season in February, averaging 24.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the month. In his first five games in March, he averaged 29.8 points.

But even LaVine knows, considering where the Bulls are and how well he has played in the second half of the season, playing injured might not be a good idea.

“I want to be out there regardless,” LaVine said. “But there’s no reason to go out there and try to risk anything right now. It’s not smart.”

Even if LaVine’s knee improves and he’s able to return, why would he?

The Bulls are pretty much locked into the fourth-worst record in the NBA, but there’s always a chance their draft lottery position could change, especially with two games left against the Knicks, two against the Wizards and one against the Suns.

The Cavaliers and Suns have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games, so everything is still in play.

Just maybe not LaVine.