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Bulls guard Zach LaVine talks quarantine and playoff push in his return

The All-Star missed almost three weeks in the NBA’s health and safety protocol after testing positive for the coronavirus. In that time the Bulls have watched their play-in spot disappear. LaVine’s hope is to help win games and let the pieces fall where they may.

“That’s why I’m coming back,” the Bulls’ Zach LaVine said. “I’m not somebody that’s going to sit here and try and be all hope is lost. I’m going to come here and try and do my job.’’ LaVine is expected to return Thursday after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocol three weeks ago,
“That’s why I’m coming back,” the Bulls’ Zach LaVine said. “I’m not somebody that’s going to sit here and try and be all hope is lost. I’m going to come here and try and do my job.’’ LaVine is expected to return Thursday after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocol three weeks ago,
AP

Bulls All-Star guard Zach LaVine doesn’t know what his minutes will be like when he finally returns Thursday against the Hornets in Charlotte.

LaVine has no idea exactly how his legs will feel.

But his golf swing?

That might be a thing of beauty these days.

Cooped up in the basement of his house after a positive coronavirus test sent him into quarantine and the NBA’s health and safety protocol three weeks ago, LaVine was suddenly dealing with a lot of unexpected free time.

“I watched a whole bunch of movies,’’ LaVine said of his time away from the team. “Worked on my golf swing. What else did I do? Played video games. Got tired of playing video games. Played phone games with my

fiancée. She was being a nurse to me, delivering food up and down the stairs. I did everything to try to keep me from going insane.’’

Unfortunately, the time away did him little good, and his team even less.

When LaVine tested positive on April 15, the Bulls had just lost to the Magic the night before but were still sitting in the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference at 22-32. With LaVine penciled into the starting lineup Thursday against the Hornets, the Bulls are now 26-39, four games behind the surging Wizards for that final spot, with just seven left to play.

No wonder it was frustrating for LaVine to just sit home and watch the downfall happen in front of his own eyes, powerless to do anything about it.

According to LaVine, that’s why he sent out a tweet ripping into the protocol, before going back and deleting it.

“I was just frustrated, man,’’ LaVine said. “Cause the ranges vary or it was varied for some of the players. For me, it just felt like it was taking a really long time. Some guys came back after 10 days or 12 days. I don’t want to put all the blame on the league because obviously I have to go through certain things, so I was just more frustrated that I couldn’t go out there and compete and help the team win.

“We were anywhere from eighth to 10th [in the Eastern Conference standings] the whole season, and to see us slip in the standings has been tough. Hopefully, I can come back and try and help.’’

But even as great as LaVine has been this season, there’s only so much he can do. The Bulls had a .407 winning percentage before LaVine tested positive, and in the 11 games he missed, they posted a .367 winning percentage.

It’s not like they were on a roll either way.

The good news was that LaVine said he was mostly asymptomatic, experiencing just a headache, so he’s expecting to make an impact in his return.

He won’t be alone.

Fellow All-Star Nikola Vucevic, who had missed the last two games with a sore hip, practiced in full Wednesday and was a go as long as there are no setbacks.

That’s almost 50 points per game returning to a lineup that has been hurting offensively. So is there a late playoff push somewhere in this group?

“It’s going to be tough,’’ LaVine said. “Obviously the games are stacked up against you, but from what I’ve been telling guys you can’t worry about that. Let’s just go out there and take care of our job. If we go out there and take care of the wins, let the pieces fall where they may. But you can’t dwell and depend on other teams.

“That’s why I’m coming back. I’m not somebody that’s going to sit here and try and be ‘all hope is lost.’ ” I’m going to come here and try and do my job.’’