Zach LaVine has dealt with sprained ankles before, as just about anyone who’s played basketball at any level has. This is the first time he’s suffered any sort of significant injury, however, and it’ll sideline him for the next 1 to 3 weeks.
The Bulls’ leading scorer suffered the injury in the final minute of the team’s loss to the Orlando Magic in Mexico City on Dec. 13. Magic center Nikola Vucevic landed on LaVine’s ankle while going up for a rebound, and though LaVine finished the game he did so with a noticeable hobble.
LaVine admitted after the game that he said he’d play in the team’s next game in San Antonio two days later “just to make myself feel better.” The reality was that he was dealing with a significant ankle roll, and he returned to Chicago for more testing.
Multiple opinions, the Bulls’ press release Wednesday noted, concluded that LaVine indeed did have a sprain that will keep him out for the foreseeable future.
“I’m about a week out now so maybe another week,” he said prior to the Bulls’ Wednesday tilt against the Nets. “Hopefully no setbacks, but I haven’t got back on the court or started moving around yet so once that swelling goes down I can give you an estimate within the next couple of days.”
Right now LaVine’s rehab consists of icing, physical therapy and electrical stimulation, some of which he’s able to do at home. It’s simply speculative, but with the team sitting at 7-24 – the worst record in the NBA – it makes sense that the Bulls will be overly cautious with their $78 million investment, especially with Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen back in the fold to carry some of the burden.
Though it comes in the form of an injury, the time off may be a silver lining. Entering Wednesday’s games LaVine ranked eighth in minutes per game and third in miles traveled per game (2.76). He’s been asked to shoulder the majority of the Bulls’ offensive load, ranking fourth in the NBA in usage rate behind only James Harden, Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant. The time off may be good for the 23-year-old shooting guard, and he won’t say that the workload had anything to do with an unfortunate rolled ankle.
“Could have happened at anytime,” he said. “I rolled my ankle and I didn’t miss any games earlier this year. But I think that’s what all the work I do in the offseason to have your body ready and prepared for. I put a lot of work into it. I think I’m one of the most conditioned dudes in the NBA, so I haven’t felt too overloaded.”