Zach LaVine seemingly can’t escape health and safety protocols.
The Bulls guard feels that his team lost out on a playoff spot the first time he was put under that umbrella late in the regular season. Now, he may lose Olympic gold.
In a statement released Monday by USA Basketball, LaVine was put in the health and safety protocols and would not be travelling with the team to Tokyo. The hope was that he could make the trip later this week, with a source indicating that LaVine was left behind due to contact tracing.
Considering how LaVine felt snakebitten when he tested positive for the coronavirus back in April, missing out on his first time on Team USA would be more than a gut punch.
“There’s certain things you can’t control, and that’s where I had to get to when I came back,’’ LaVine said last month about his first encounter with the protocols. “I tried to do the best I could to be in shape and just push it when I got here and do whatever I could do to help try to drive some life back into the team and help make that last little run.
“But [missing] 11 games was crucial, man, it really was. We were sitting at ninth, eighth [seed], the whole season. We went through a tough stretch. And me not being able to be out there to help at least, it really hurt. So bad timing, bad luck, whatever you want to call it, I wouldn’t blame the season on that.’’
LaVine was the third Olympic player to enter the protocols in the last week, joining Bradley Beal, who was forced to leave the team altogether, and Jerami Grant, who also is dealing with contact tracing.
LaVine became a starter the last few exhibition games with Beal out, and was the team’s third leading scorer (10.3 points), behind Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard.
There will be help on the way when the NBA Finals end, with Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday each scheduled to arrive in Japan a day before Team USA starts pool play Sunday against France.
But leaving for the Olympics with just eight players on the flight wasn’t very comforting.
Beal and the injured Kevin Love already had been replaced with Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee, but the perimeter play will be thin until help arrives.
The good news for LaVine is if it is only contact tracing and he tests out of the protocol, like the three players still competing in the Finals, he would be at the Games in time for the start of pool play.