While breaking down Zach LaVine’s contract situation with the Chicago Bulls recently, team insider KC Johnson said that the star guard had relished his position as the face of the franchise. That apparent desire to lead and be an example for his teammates has manifested itself in a major way in the early season.
For several games now, LaVine has been playing through a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand. The Bulls have labeled it a sprain, but the star guard has been forced to play with his thumb heavily taped as there is a minor ligament tear, per NBC Sports Chicago.
Although he has continued to play close to his usual level — LaVine dropped 27 points and nine boards against the Sixers on Wednesday — there have been moments where the injury has clearly bothered him. LaVine isn’t complaining, though; he’s strapping in for a long ride.
“It’s going to be like this for a while,” LaVine said. “I’m not going to take any excuses for it. It is what it is. And you play through it.”
Feeling the Effects
Although he says that the thumb had been jammed up previously, it was very clearly aggravated during the Bulls’ October 25 win over the Toronto Raptors. The following day, the tape job came into play.
LaVine has still managed to log a 26-6-4 line since that point. However, his efficiency has waned somewhat. Over that same four-game period, his effective field goal percentage has been in the 40s, which is the direct result of a 6-for-25 three-point stretch.
It’s not just his perimeter shot that has left him, though. His decision-making and clutch fortitude look to have taken a hit as well. In Philly, for example, his poor play during the final period played a big part in Chicago leaving the city with its second loss.
After checking in with 7 minutes, 15 seconds left and the Bulls down 87-85, LaVine missed all five shots, including two 3-pointers, with 2 turnovers. On several possessions, he dribbled into the teeth of the defense with few options.
He further noted that “there are two to three times each game where LaVine either looks at his left thumb, expresses frustration or makes an adjustment that you’re not used to seeing from someone so adept at scoring with either hand.”
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DeMar DeRozan Is Picking up the Slack
He’s never been an analytical darling, but that hasn’t stopped DeMar DeRozan from being a bona fide bucket-getter. And, right now, the 32-year-old is on one of the best streaks we have seen from him since his All-Star days with the Toronto Raptors.
Through eight games this season, DeRozan is averaging 27.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest while shooting 50.6% from the floor. If those numbers hold up through the season, they’ll be some of the best marks of his 13-year career.
Meanwhile, his three-point percentage of 38.9 would obliterate his previous career-high by more than 5%. It’s an incredible development for a player who has taken more than 90% of his career shots from two-point range and has only hit on 28.2% of his threes for his career.
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