Zach LaVine Tells Truth About Fit With Bulls After Making Return

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls are undefeated with Zach LaVine in 2024.

LaVine, 28, missed 17 games with foot inflammation. The injury seemingly struck at the most inopportune time, with the Bulls slumping and LaVine mired in trade rumors. The Bulls went 10-7 without him.

They got the win in his first game back, beating a depleted Charlotte Hornets squad 104-91 on January 5.

“That’s what we were trying to work on,” LaVine said via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic after the game. “Every game is different. Some games, you’ve got to insert yourself a little bit more or a little bit less. But we’ll stick with what we’ve been trying to do. I think I can be efficient in any offense. As long as I go out there and do my job, I’ll be fine.”

LaVine finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists off the bench in his return.

LaVine joked he was going to “sleep so good” after logging just under 30 minutes.

He was not his typically efficient self, shooting 54.5% from the floor but just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc.

The Bulls’ last two games – both losses – perhaps best illustrate how much LaVine’s scoring was missed. But head coach Billy Donovan said he just wanted LaVine to be quicker, and he doesn’t think that will be an issue.

“He sees what these guys have done and how they’ve played,” Donovan said, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson on January 5. “His mindset is he wants to enhance it and contribute. And I think the skill set that he has, he should fit in fine to that. My biggest thing for him has been the quick decisions.”

LaVine also said his focus is on playing, not on the trade rumors around him, or lack thereof.

Bulls Big 3 Back Together

DeMar DeRozan was clear that the Bulls missed LaVine, noting as much following their 13-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on January 2.

“We could’ve used that extra 20 to 25 to 30 points tonight. Give another dynamic focal point of scoring, playmaking,” DeRozan said via Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune on January 2. “At the end of the day, it’s still Zach LaVine. … Nights like tonight, we wish we had him.”

The Bulls followed that with a 16-point loss to the New York Knicks the following night.

“Zach’s ability to shoot and drive and get out in transition opens up so much for us,” Vučević said, per Sam Smith of “It gives us a totally different outlook offensively.”

The Bulls Big 3 has a minus-13.8 net rating on the season, per In the admittedly small sample size against the short-handed Hornets, the trio finished with a plus-27.9 net rating. That number is likely unsustainable. But it could be an encouraging sign for the future.

Nikola Vucevic ‘Felt Good’ in Return From Injury

Vucevic was returning from a five-game absence, during which fill-in starter Andre Drummond put together strong performances. He too came off the bench, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

He was similarly inefficient, shooting 41.7% from the floor and going 1-for-5 from deep.

“I felt good,” said Vučević, per Smith. “I thought we played with a lot of energy offensively. We were very decisive with what we were doing. We were sharing the ball and when we got stops were able to run and get some easy ones; our decisions were quick and we were playing off each other well. When we do that we can be a very good offensive team.”

Vucevic – who started all 82 games last season acknowledged coming off the bench was “different”. It was his first work as a reserve since the 2016-17 season with the Orlando Magic.

Both players believed their stamina wouldn’t be an issue in the coming games. They will get three days’ rest before taking on the Hornets again.