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Sample size is small, but potential for Zach LaVine-Nikola Vucevic combo is huge

LaVine and Vucevic have played only 14 games together, but LaVine sees big things moving forward.

‘‘Whenever I’ve had the chance to get with him and talk with him, then when I play with him in the game, it’s been good,’’ Zach LaVine said of Bulls teammate Nikoa Vucevic. ‘‘Even from the beginning, I think it’s been good.”
‘‘Whenever I’ve had the chance to get with him and talk with him, then when I play with him in the game, it’s been good,’’ Zach LaVine said of Bulls teammate Nikoa Vucevic. ‘‘Even from the beginning, I think it’s been good.”
AP

Thanks to a few bumps and bruises, as well as guard Zach LaVine’s stint in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, the Bulls’ game Tuesday against the Nets was only the 14th that center Nikola Vucevic and LaVine had played together.

But LaVine said he thinks the two have jelled fairly seamlessly since the Bulls acquired Vucevic from the Magic at the trade deadline.

‘‘Whenever I’ve had the chance to get with him and talk with him, then when I play with him in the game, it’s been good,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘Even from the beginning, I think it’s been good.

‘‘I think the part we had to get down was how we were going to assert ourselves with the lineup and rest of team and what’s the correct lineup to go out there with us and the correct spacing on offense or what pace we’re going to play at.’’

LaVine said Vucevic’s laid-back, low-maintenance demeanor makes things easy.

‘‘A lot of his response with me is, ‘Whatever you want to do, and I’ll figure it out,’ ’’ LaVine said. ‘‘It’s pretty easy.’’

The best part about the relationship is that it will have time to continue to grow. Unless executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has a major trade planned this summer, Vucevic is signed for two more seasons and LaVine for one. LaVine also might receive an extension offer this summer.

‘‘We’re two guys who know how to play the game, and we play pretty good off each other already,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘It will just keep getting better with time. And going forward, they’re going to need both of us.’’

Brown still not ready

Swingman Troy Brown Jr. missed his 12th consecutive game with a sprained left ankle that has been tougher to get over than initially thought.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Brown actually has been cleared to play, but it’s about getting his conditioning back first.

‘‘He’s had two days of contact,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘The biggest issue we’re having with him right now, just from a medical side, from Troy’s side, is there enough ramp-up time for him to compete? . . . Trying to create situations for him with player-development guys where he can have some contact and play some five-on-five and three-on-three. He’s done that, but I do think he needs a little bit more time.’’

Brown was really the Bulls’ only injured player of significance against the Nets. Power forward Daniel Theis was back in the lineup after missing the game Sunday against the Pistons because of a sore hip.

Patriot games

LaVine said he is still interested in playing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics this offseason, but he has been in a holding pattern since he was added to the player pool.

‘‘All I’ve gotten is that they’ve invited me so far,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I don’t even think there’s going to be a tryout or anything like that. I think they’re just going to select 15 guys. We’ll see what happens. Obviously, I would love to go out there and represent my country. I think I’ve shown what kind of player I am and what I can contribute to a team.’’