ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday afternoon that the All-Star guard has been entered into the league’s health and safety protocol:
Chicago Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine is expected to miss several games after entering into the league's health and safety protocol, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 15, 2021
The Bulls PR team announced early on Thursday that the team’s practice had been called off for health and safety protocol reasons, ahead of their Friday night matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Per ESPN, there is no timeline on a return for LaVine, who’s having a career seventh season. The 26-year old is averaging 27.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game.
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Playoff Hopes in Jeopardy
Even if it meant by way of the play-in tournament, the Chicago Bulls had felt confident about their capability to enter the Eastern Confernece playoff picture.
A multiple-game absence from LaVine all-but ends what was already an uphill climb to the postseason.
Chicago is in the middle of a four-game losing streak, and per Tankathon.com, have the eight-toughest remaining schedule among the entire NBA.
Both the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards have been surging as of late, and should be considered threats to take the Bulls place as the final play-in team in LaVine’s absence.
Chicago’s played their best basketball with the All-Star guard on the floor this season, both before and after the trade deadline shake-up. This is a new low for a team on steady decline.
Who’s Going to Step Up in LaVine’s Absence?
With Zach LaVine out indefinitely, expect head coach Billy Donovan’s rotations to almost dramatically change.
Luckily, veteran guard Garrett Temple just returned from an eight-game absence due to a right hamstring strain. Expect him to be the top candidate for LaVine’s spot in the starting lineup.
Another option for Donovan could include Troy Brown Jr., who’s defense-first mentality could make for a nice fit on a starting lineup featuring both Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young.
On the back end of the roster, look for Denzel Valentine to get consistent run in the rotation, as well as potentially an opportunity to open up for undrafted rookie Devon Dotson.
He’s appeared in just three games for the Bulls this season, but had a solid campaign with their G-League affiliate. Dotson averaged 13 points and 5.6 assists in 10 games for the Canton Charge.
And of course, the workload becomes all the heavier for Chicago’s second All-Star, Nikola Vucevic, who’s only 11 games into his tenure in the Windy City.
The 30-year old big man will be asked a lot of over the immediate stretch, but so far has delivered in any and all aspects of the game. Vucevic is averaging 22.5 points and 9.8 rebounds with the Bulls.
The Chicago Bulls are 22-32, 3-7 in their last 10, and hanging on to the 10th-seed by a thread.
It doesn’t get much worse than this.