Bulls Star Zach LaVine Sends Troubling Message on Status

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a break in game action.

Should there be more concern over the status of Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine’s surgically repaired knee? In a bigger sign of growth than some may realize, the Bulls dropped a tightly contested road matchup with the Boston Celtics.

The 123-119 final score is a testament to how hard they fought in a game that saw the home team’s lead grow to as much as 14 points in the second half.

LaVine finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

But he took just two shots in the paint with both coming in the fourth quarter and neither time did he get very much elevation. With a solid all-around performance from the two-time All-Star, how soon is too soon to worry about this trend, and is LaVine concerned?

LaVine Not Leaping Yet

“Obviously, I’m not all the way back yet,” LaVine admitted after the loss. “I feel that. I’m not going to lie. But it’s coming. I’m not scared or anything like that. It’s seven games in. I feel fine.” (h/t K.C. Johnson/NBC Sports Chicago)

That may be true but there has been a significant drop in LaVine’s drives to the basket since he returned from a one-game absence against the San Antonio Spurs.

Before that game, LaVine averaged 11.7 drives per game, per NBA.com tracking data.

He has averaged 7.5 drives in the four games since with a similar jump in his attempts from beyond the arc. LaVine has attempted 8.3 threes in this most recent span compared to 6.3 over his previous three games.

Not surprisingly, LaVine’s scoring has suffered as he’s also not getting to the free throw line and settling (either by force or by choice) for jump shots.

He’s gone from 23.3 points per game with 7.7 free throw attempts to 18.8 points per game and just 2.3 tries from the charity stripe. Fortunately, he is still doing other things to make an impact as both his assists and rebounds are up during the recent four-game stretch.

LaVine said his performance in this game was the result of “reading the defense”.

He chalked some of it to the Celtics switching and collapsing the paint defensively as well as the Bulls’ tweaked offense not calling for as many isolations.

For what it’s worth, he does not sound like a player who is concerned with the outside noise.

“I’m just trying to get the rhythm back and figure out what feels good and what doesn’t right now,” said LaVine who did not go through his normal offseason routine. “There were a couple plays where I feel like I could’ve took off. There were a couple plays where the defense comes over and they’re already in shot-blocking position so it’s smart to try to get contact and get to the line.”

Positive Signs for LaVine

LaVine went on to suggest that he may dunk less going forward simply because he has a wide array of shots in his arsenal. He cited Michael Jordan’s return from baseball and transition from playing above the rim to being more of a savvy player as well as focusing on longevity.

This was the second surgery LaVine has had on the knee and he has dealt with other injuries throughout his career.

The Bulls are also still navigating Lonzo Ball‘s surgically repaired knee.

On the heels of signing a five-year, $215 million contract, the long view is the right view.

But, if it is of any consolation to those concerned this could end poorly for the player or the franchise, LaVine’s note on getting to the line means he is still looking to draw contact. That is positive even if it has to look a little different than we are used to seeing from him.

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