Coach Billy Donovan wasn’t sure what to think after guard Zach LaVine injured his left knee Friday night.
Then he reached LaVine on the phone on the way to the airport and felt instant relief.
“He came down a little bit funny, and it just didn’t feel right,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He went back into the locker room, didn’t feel right, and he made the decision. Zach and the medical [staff] thought there was no need to try to go back in the game and that he needed to get an MRI [Saturday].
“He did not feel like it was anything serious. He was in good spirits when I talked to him.’’
LaVine was in even better spirits after the results. The MRI exam showed no structural damage.
He will go through therapy, then be re-evaluated this week to determine a more definite timeline.
That’s why the “Thank God’’ emoji popped up on LaVine’s Twitter feed after the results were made public.
“I don’t think it’s something that’s long-term, which is a good thing,’’ Donovan said. “The biggest thing is, how does he respond through therapy, treatment, those sorts of things? Certainly I think everyone was happy that it wasn’t more than that.’’
In the first quarter of the Bulls’ 138-96 loss to the Warriors, LaVine grabbed an offensive rebound, then told Donovan that he felt discomfort in the knee, which was surgically repaired in 2017 after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament.
Rather than force the issue, LaVine committed the intentional foul to get the stoppage and headed straight to the locker room with trainer Arnold Lee.
Donovan confirmed that LaVine had been dealing with the normal soreness that comes with the NBA grind in mid-January, but it wasn’t concerning enough to keep him sidelined.
LaVine will be a free agent this offseason and has hundreds of millions of dollars on the line. Dealing with knee soreness the last month is one thing, a source said, but the sensation he had Friday was something else.
He’ll miss both games of the road trip, so the Bulls will have to maintain their next-man-up mentality. But these will be some big shoes to fill.
LaVine again has been one of the more efficient scorers in the NBA, averaging 24.9 points on 49.1% shooting from the field, including 41.2% from three-point range.
But it’s his defense in his second season under Donovan that has the organization excited.
Starting forward Javonte Green has been running and testing his injured groin with lateral-movement drills.
“He’s responded well to that but is still not in a position to be able to come back, like, in the next day or two,’’ Donovan said.
In his last game on Dec. 31, Green played 28 minutes against the Pacers.
Donovan has been trying to find some consistency at the position. Derrick Jones Jr. was the obvious choice, but he injured his knee in the loss to the Nets. Troy Brown Jr. got the nod against the Warriors, but Donovan pivoted and went with Alfonzo McKinnie on Saturday against the Celtics.