Zach LaVine’s knee-management schedule about to be tested

LaVine paced himself in early-season back-to-backs, often sitting out one of the games. But his surgically repaired left knee continues to look stronger, as does his game. With the schedule picking up the next few weeks, he will be tested once again.

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Zach LaVine

Bulls coach Billy Donovan has held his share of odd jobs, including a short stint on Wall Street as a stockbroker.

One area he never dabbled in, however, was the medical field. He wasn’t about to start Saturday.

The Bulls’ schedule condenses again in the next few weeks. It started with back-to-backs Saturday against the Mavericks at the United Center and Sunday against the Hawks in Atlanta.

Back-to-backs have been guard Zach LaVine’s kryptonite when it comes to the load management with his left knee, so Donovan was asked about his upcoming playing schedule.

‘‘I say this respectfully: I am not involved in this,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I’m communicating, but I have no medical background to give any sense of advice.’’

Of the four games LaVine has sat out this season to rest the knee, three of them were the first games of back-to-backs. The fact he played against the Mavericks was a sign he might be able to go against the Hawks, but the Bulls likely won’t know that until Sunday.

Where it gets a bit trickier is Dec. 20-21, when the Bulls have a back-to-back against the Heat and Hawks as part of four games in six nights.

‘‘A lot of this will depend on how [LaVine] feels coming out of this game, the flight, Sunday morning,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Certainly, it’s on the table for him to play. I think, as I mentioned, he wants to play. That’s always his mentality. We’ll get feedback from him [and] the medical guys and then go from there.’’

LaVine has been searching for a rhythm to his game and seems to have found one in the last week. He entered the Bulls’ 144-115 rout of the Mavericks averaging just less than 30 points in his last three games and scored 11 points in the first quarter. He finished with 16 in 27 minutes.

Donovan said he sees LaVine continuing to find his way in the Bulls’ new-look offense and gaining more confidence in the knee.

‘‘I think for Zach, before I got here, there was so much on his plate because he was the sole creator,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Bailing us out on late-shot situations, the ball was kind of always in his hands.

‘‘It was an abnormal offseason for him [because of the knee surgery]. And then even coming into training camp, he was trying to get his legs under him. I wouldn’t say we’re asking him to play differently — we want him to be who he is — but I think everybody in here knows we’ve got to take more three-point shots. He’s the one guy that can change that. . . .

‘‘[But] the one thing about Zach is he has a good heart about doing what’s right for the team. If guys are open, he’s going to pass the ball.’’

Minute man

Hard-nosed guard Alex Caruso has seen his minutes increase since becoming a starter after the Bulls’ loss Nov. 30 in Phoenix, but the coaching staff still is keeping an eye on how much he plays in an effort to protect him from himself.

‘‘We’re trying to get him off [the floor] a little bit earlier and be conscientious of his minutes and what it looks like at the end of the game,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘But I think he’s done a nice job with that [starting] group.’’

Caruso suffered a bruised lower back in the first quarter Saturday and missed the rest of the game. He already has been ruled out of the game Sunday against the Hawks.

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