Bulls will try to help Zach LaVine on defense because of knee, but they can’t hide him

Billy Donovan pointed out that the coaches will keep LaVine away from players who run through a lot of actions from set to set, but “he’s still got a job to do.’’

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Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat

Zach LaVine said his left knee is at “80%, 70%, whatever it is.”

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

ATLANTA — The Bulls can’t hide Zach LaVine on defense, and they’re not going to try.

That’s just not realistic with the teams left on the schedule and whom they’ll face in the postseason.

Coach Billy Donovan acknowledged that LaVine’s defense has been a bit hampered with his left knee at “80%, 70%, whatever it is,’’ according to LaVine, but he’ll have to grind through it.

There are a few minor things the Bulls can do to help him out, but in a five-man defense that needs to be tied together, the adjustments will be limited.

“I think moving him around in matchups and things like that can help,’’ Donovan said Thursday. “When you’re playing these really good teams, it’s hard to escape a five-man defense. I think Zach does understand that when he puts the uniform on, laces the shoes up, makes the decision to step across the line, he’s got a responsibility to do his job. We’ve got to help him from the bench as much as we can in certain matchups and certain situations, but it’s still not going to take away that he’s got to sprint back in transition, he’s got to be in really good position.’’

Donovan pointed out that the coaches will keep LaVine away from players who run through a lot of actions from set to set, but “he’s still got a job to do.’’

“I wish he was 100%; he wishes he was 100%,’’ Donovan said. “I think he’s managing it and dealing with it the best he can, and, at the same time, he understands that in that moment of competition, you can’t escape it.’’

LaVine’s knee hasn’t held him out of the second of back-to-back games. Before he went to Los Angeles to see a specialist last month, that was a possibility for the rest of the season.

But that’s not the case anymore, particularly with the Bucks visiting the United Center on Friday in one of the more anticipated games of the regular season.

“I talked to him about the back-to-backs, specifically on where his mindset is at, and he told me that he wants to see how he’s feeling day to day instead of predetermining, ‘I’m sitting here, I’m sitting here,’ ” Donovan said. “I think if he feels like he wants to play, he can play, and I think the medical people are OK on that.

‘‘He’s obviously got to be a big part as far as his communication with where he’s at physically after he plays games.’’

Caruso’s wrist improving

While most of the team watched film leading up to the game against the Hawks, Alex Caruso (right wrist), Patrick Williams (left wrist) and Lonzo Ball (knee) continued their rehab/strengthening programs with some of the bench players.

Caruso, who was tentative shooting and passing with his right hand Tuesday, has been putting up more shots with it, which was a good sign.

“On Tuesday, he was definitely uncomfortable, not because of pain, just stiffness, lack of strength, didn’t feel like he could really pass the basketball,’’ Donovan said. “The next day, he felt much, much better.

‘‘The fact that a couple of days ago he wasn’t able to shoot much with his right and now he’s starting to shoot with that right, he’s just going to have to regain that strength in his wrist and his forearm for him to feel comfortable and confident.’’

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