Tanks for nothing: Bulls guard Zach LaVine won’t sit out more games
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Zach LaVine has no idea what next season will bring for the Bulls.
The contract extension he signed last summer undoubtedly will keep him in red, black and white for at least the next few seasons. LaVine admittedly likes the team’s direction, but the particulars surrounding the 2019-20 season are anyone’s guess.
That’s why LaVine said Thursday that sitting out the rest of this season — even with a banged-up right knee — isn’t really an option.
“This is basketball,’’ LaVine said. “It’s my favorite thing to do. What else would I be doing right now? If I can play, I’m going to play. I don’t think there’s any reason for me to sit out if I can play. That’s just not who I am. That’s not what I do. It’s going to be good for the team. We can get our chemistry down, continue to play well, build things for next year. I’m not somebody that’s going to sit out. If I’m hurt, there’s no reason to try to risk anything. But if I’m not, I’m going to play.’’
After missing the last two games with a strained right patellar tendon, there was growing speculation Monday that if the knee didn’t react well, LaVine might be shut down for the rest of the season.
Coach Jim Boylen even had plans to broach that topic with vice president of basketball operations John Paxson later that day, but that meeting was put on hold so they could observe LaVine throughout the week.
The Bulls left town Thursday for a three-game West Coast trip, and LaVine is scheduled to play Friday against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
“I’ve already missed enough games, I feel like, for my career,’’ said LaVine, who had surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2017. “I missed a whole year and a half because of that. It made me really miss basketball. That’s what I love to do, even in the summertime. I go out there and play basketball. I work out because that’s just who I am. So I like being on the floor.’’
It doesn’t hurt that LaVine has been ridiculous through most of February and into March, possibly playing the best basketball of his career.
In his last five games, LaVine averaged 29.8 points and shot 48 percent from the field.
“I feel like I’ve played well all [season],’’ LaVine said. “I think the main thing, not just being on a roll because you can get on rolls and hot streaks and things like that, but I expect myself to do that. That’s the hard work I put in during the offseason.’’
His mentality is play for today because tomorrow is unknown.
Especially with this roster.
Will the Bulls get lucky in the draft lottery and add Zion Williamson? Has Kris Dunn lost his starting point-guard spot? Which veterans will the front office look to bring in?
These are questions that LaVine can’t answer.
But he’s confident that the Bulls will be better than a 19-50 team next season with him, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and a healthy Wendell Carter Jr.
“You can already see how much better we are from the All-Star break,’’ LaVine said. “I feel like that can continue to get better with the time we’ve had with each other going into the offseason and picking up in training camp. I think we can flip around real fast.’’