Two-time All-Star Zach LaVine will make his regular season debut on Saturday against the Cavaliers after missing the Bulls’ first two games, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. LaVine has had left knee pain, and the problem isn’t new, as he struggled with knee issues most of last season and underwent arthroscopic surgery in the offseason.
Head coach Billy Donovan said LaVine won’t have a minute restriction, but a heavy workload is unlikely.
“There’s no minute restriction on him, but clearly the more load on him you’ll have to watch him,” Donovan said. “There is nothing in the [games] where they say, “Listen, we have to keep his minutes here.” Admittedly, the fact that he plays 40 minutes or 39 or 38 is not the best thing.
According to Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune, LaVine was a full participant in Thursday’s practice.
“He feels good,” Donovan said Friday. “He was able to find work and told me he felt good. Obviously, yesterday (Thursday) was a very, very light day. He had player development guys guarding him, he was coming off screens, working on his ball handling, using pick-and-rolls. He was doing his normal things. He needed precise training and he was able to do it.
After showing up to camp this fall, LaVine spoke repeatedly about the quality of his knee and was able to play in three of four preseason games. However, he later said that he and the team decided it was best to deal with the issue so he would feel better at the end of the season.
LaVine, who re-signed with the Bulls to a five-year contract with maximum salary over the summer, will be allowed a back-to-back game for the foreseeable future, but his availability remains uncertain beyond that.
“It’s hard to come in and say, ‘OK, here’s the schedule, and here’s the games we’re going to rest him for or handle him for when he’s feeling good,'” Donovan said, per Cowley. “You know, if he’s feeling good, obviously he’s going to want to play, but I also think we have to be smart and [that] it’s more the doctor and the doctors, these guys watching, ‘OK, sometimes it’s not then – it’s a cumulative effect of something that happens later.’
“There may be times when he feels fine and the doctors, our medical group, say, ‘OK, this is the game to rest and recover. So I can’t tell you I looked at the schedule and here are the matches we know [he’ll sit].”