One of the top dunkers in the NBA is set to take flight for the first time in over a year Saturday.
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine will make his debut with the club this weekend against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center, Bulls executive VP John Paxson announced Tuesday.
LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion, tore the ACL in his left knee last February while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. A major centerpiece of the blockbuster trade that sent superstar guard Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, the injured LaVine has been rehabbing in the G-League in order to get in game shape leading up to his return. He was dealt from the Timberwolves to the Bulls prior to the NBA draft, along with Kris Dunn and a draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen, in a package for Butler.
The 22-year-old will initially be kept on an estimated 20-minute restriction per game in order to ease back into the pace of NBA games, and monitor any potential issues with his knee. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has yet to announce whether his new weapon will come off the bench, or start Saturday's game. LaVine will unquestionably be the team's top scoring threat upon his return, but will also have the additional challenge of adapting to a new system in the middle of the season.
"I’ve actually picked things up pretty quickly,” LaVine told the Chicago Tribune.“The main thing is just doing a lot of conditioning...I like being one of the best in-shape dudes out there. I’m getting that down. The touch and feel comes back the more you play.”
The Bulls will surely monitor their prized guard very carefully, especially with the team sitting way back in 13th in the Eastern Conference standings with a 14-27 record. Chicago would need a miraculous run in the second half of the season in order to clinch a playoff berth, and is more likely to trade some of its veteran players down the stretch than blossom into serious contenders.
Selected 13th overall in the 2014 draft by Minnesota, LaVine averaged 13.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists on 44.5 percent shooting across three seasons with the Timberwolves.