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Bulls guard Zach LaVine watching numbers dip as injured thumb heals

His field-goal percentage was holding fairly steady, but LaVine admittedly is adjusting to playing with a brace and tape on his left thumb. Missing games, however, isn’t in the plans.

Protecting the torn ligaments in his injured left thumb remains priority No. 1 for Zach LaVine.
Protecting the torn ligaments in his injured left thumb remains priority No. 1 for Zach LaVine.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Bulls guard Zach LaVine was fidgeting around with the brace and tape on his left thumb even before the question was asked Monday.

“I hope so; it better be [healing],’’ LaVine said, laughing. “It’s like a sprained ankle. You just got to give it time to heal.’’

LaVine also needs time to figure it out and work through it.

The top priority remains protecting the torn ligaments in the thumb. LaVine and the Bulls’ medical staff believe there’s no reason for him to miss time, but there’s always a concern that if it gets hit the wrong way, he could have a major setback.

“I trust the medical [staff] on that,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s taped pretty well. Could something happen? I’m sure. But the way Zach feels and [the] medical [staff] feels, it’s not at a place where Zach needs to sit games out right now, and I know Zach doesn’t want to do that.’’

So LaVine is playing through pain and seeing a dip in some of his numbers.

Surprisingly, LaVine’s overall shooting from the field isn’t suffering that much even though he is relying much more on his right hand around the rim.

LaVine shot a career-best 50.7% from the field last season and was a 45.8% shooter for his career. Before the injury in Toronto on Oct. 25, he was at 50% from the field. In the first five games after the thumb injury, he went 48-for-106 (45.2%), not a huge drop.

The injury, however, seems to be an issue with his three-point shooting and ballhandling.

LaVine shot 41.9% on threes last season; since the injury, he was only 9-for-35 (26%) from three-point range.

“Just gotta make some shots,’’ LaVine said. “I’ve had a lot of in-and-outs. My shot feels good, but obviously adjusting to playing with tape on your hand and a brace is a little different, but no excuse for not making them.

“I try to do everything [fundamentally] the same. Keep the same shot, and eventually it will start going in.’’

In the turnover department, especially against better teams such as the 76ers and Knicks, LaVine has had issues.

Then again, being a one-handed dribbler has its limitations.

In the home-and-home showdown against the 76ers, LaVine had nine turnovers, and he had three against the Knicks.

“Pain-wise, it’s not there anymore,’’ LaVine said. “It’s not just tape on your finger. It’s obstructing, so . . . I’ve gotten used to it over the last couple of games. I still got to play with it for a little bit longer. It’s just a different feeling than just playing through pain.’’

White set for practice

The Bulls relayed some good news on guard Coby White before the game against the Nets: He was cleared to fully practice with the team starting Tuesday.

White had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and was on the shelf most of the summer and all of fall camp.

How long it will take him to get back in game shape and rhythm is still unknown, but he will join his teammates on the upcoming West Coast trip.

“The only thing I don’t know now is how much practice time he needs to where he’s able to step in and rejoin the team as far as being back in the rotation and playing,’’ Donovan said.

“That’s the next step right now.’’