The Chicago Bulls (19-24) had it bad enough with their 124-110 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in front of the United Center crowd. It is their third straight loss and fifth in eight games with a three-game winning streak sandwiched in the middle.
Things seemed bleak enough with the additional concern of DeMar DeRozan’s strained quad which knocked him out of commission for the second straight game.
Now, after the loss to OKC, Zach LaVine has created a buzz with his comments.
LaVine finished the night with 25 points, six rebounds, and five assists but he struggled with efficiency shooting 26.3% overall and going 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. It was his fifth straight game with at least 25 points but what he told reporters in the locker room after the game suggests he might have picked up more than just a nice scoring average in this stretch.
Zach LaVine Hand Injury Comes Under Scrutiny
“At very end of postgame interview, Zach LaVine responded, ‘You drive the ball when you can’t shoot, that’s what happens when you have a torn ligament’,” tweeted Cody Westerlund of 670 The Score. “LaVine played after being listed as probable with a right hand contusion. He doesn’t have a torn ligament, the team confirmed.”
K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out that LaVine, who entered the night listed as “probable” on the Bulls’ injury report with a hand contusion, did not play with any protection. He added that the guard did say the injury was sore but that it was just “normal basketball stuff”.
Johnson also noted that LaVine played through a torn thumb ligament in the early portion of last season that he said affected his performance.
The two-time All-Star also battled through a knee injury in the second half of the season.
That required surgery during the offseason and robbed LaVine of his normal routine which had a negative impact on his start to the season where he could not finish on drives and his three-point shooting was not as consistent. He said he only truly began to feel like himself around the end of November.
He entered the night averaging 30.2 points on 66.8% true shooting and hitting 46.8% of his threes in through six January contests.
“LaVine made this comment at the very end in response to a question about 15 free-throw attempts,” Westerlund continued in a separate tweet. “The interview was already breaking up and ending. By all indications so far, it was more of an offhand comment.”
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
The evening began with an encouraging development on the injury front. Starting point guard Lonzo Ball posted several videos of himself working out at the team’s facilities one of which included going up for a dunk.
It’s marked progress from media day when he said he could not walk up a flight of stairs and even from a few weeks ago when he was limited to stationary shooting.
There is a long way to go yet but this is an encouraging sign nonetheless.
It is also unlikely to be the salvation the Bulls had hoped for when the season began and they looked to tread water until Ball returned which they hoped would be sometime after the new year, albeit in an optimist’s view. The reality is that the chance of Ball returning this season was already low and grows lower with each loss.