Bulls guard Zach LaVine needs to be selfish now, but change is coming soon
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Swingman Denzel Valentine limped into the locker room early Saturday night, ice wrapped around his left ankle after his first good run on the track earlier in the day.
“I haven’t been able to do lateral stuff yet,’’ Valentine said. “But straight-ahead stuff has been pretty good. I just have to take baby steps. I didn’t think it’d take this long. But the bone bruise really was triggering my pain. It’s frustrating. But at least we know now that I’m headed in a good direction rather than just wondering.’’
Big man Lauri Markkanen could be found a few chairs down from Valentine.
His sprained right elbow is in the fifth week of an expected six- to eight-week healing window.
“Lauri is doing a little bit more,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Still no contact for either of those guys.’’
That means still a lot of uncertainty about when they’ll return.
The one certainty until then is that the Bulls will remain the Zach LaVine Show. Hoiberg has given LaVine the green light.
“We’re putting the ball in his hands and trusting him, and he’s earned that,’’ Hoiberg said.
That prominence will be tested with Markkanen and Valentine expected back sooner rather than later, followed by Bobby Portis (right knee) and Kris Dunn (left knee). It will be up to LaVine to balance staying in rhythm and allowing other key pieces to find their way into the offensive flow.
It’s not an easy task for every player.
“Absolutely Zach will be capable,’’ Hoiberg said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there when we get our guys back, but I think Zach is fully capable of making plays. I’m excited about Zach in two-man action with Lauri. We have a very small sample size of that from a year ago, but I liked what I saw in some of those actions. Now that Zach is fully healthy and in the rhythm he’s in, I think that’s a very good combination.’’
It will be a bit different for Valentine, who will come off the bench when he’s healthy and has to get used to an entirely different group.
“It’s going to be difficult a little bit at first,’’ Valentine said. “But I think just the type of players and people we are, we’ll be able to work it out sooner rather than later. We’ve all pretty much played together. Who knows what’s going to happen with everybody else. But I think we’ll be able to work it out somehow.’’
Team physician Carl Bush-Joseph appeared on The Score on Saturday morning and talked about Valentine’s injured ankle.
“No doubt when Denzel goes back,’’ he said, ‘‘he’s going to be taped every game he plays.
‘‘He’s going to be wearing custom shoes because this will be a problem that’s going to hang with him for a couple of years.’’
Valentine doesn’t want to address long-term issues at this point.
“It’s day by day,’’ Valentine said. “Hopefully by next week, I start doing that stuff. And then maybe try to ramp it up pretty fast here. It depends on how I feel. If I keep improving every day, then we’ll probably just keep adding a little bit more so I have no setbacks.’’