Zach LaVine got free on the right wing. After working his way open behind the 3-point line, LaVine took a pass from Kris Dunn and didn’t hesitate to shoot. In rhythm, he released with perfect form and the ball splashed through the hoop, giving LaVine his first three points just 37 seconds into his Bulls career.
The moment was the latest step in LaVine’s 11-month personal recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee he suffered as a member of the Timberwolves. It was also a milestone in the Bulls rebuild that began when he, Dunn and Lauri Markkanen were acquired in a draft-night deal from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler.
Inserted into the starting lineup – and announced last during the pregame introductions – LaVine scored 14 points as the Bulls beat Detroit 107-105. In 19:10 of action, LaVine shot 5 of 9 with three 3-pointers and showed flashes of why the Bulls made him a franchise centerpiece despite the major knee injury.
Like he will for the first week, LaVine sat out the fourth quarter. With LaVine on the bench, the Bulls were able to close out the Pistons. Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 19 as they had six players in double figures. Leading 107-105 after a Markkanen jumper with 1:08 left, the Bulls had a chance to close the game out but Justin Holiday turned the ball over.
Detroit’s Reggie Bullock then had a chance to tie the game but his layup rimmed out and Markkanen grabbed the rebound as the clock expired, giving the Bulls the win.
Even if they hadn’t won in wild fashion, Saturday was still significant for LaVine and the Bulls.
“It’s the last hurdle to clear for Zach to clear in this process,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “For him to finally get out there, to get this behind him I know it’s very important.”
As expected, the Bulls were conservative with LaVine, who’s on a 20-minute limit to start. He played the first 4:03 and didn’t return until the start of the second quarter. He played the first 6:58 of the second before sitting until halftime and then 8:09 of the third over two stints, ending his night as LaVine’s return went to plan.
Saturday was also a new beginning for the Bulls, as they worked to integrate a key piece into their lineup. That meant another guy trying to get used to the offense, and also meant reduced minutes for other wing players.
“There’s sacrifices that are going to have to be with the entire team. Very similar to when we got Bobby back and we got Niko back. There were some sacrifices that had to happen with our front-line guys,” Hoiberg said. “I met with all the different players this will affect in the rotation. The bottom line is we’re getting a really talented player back that’s going to help our team. That’s what each guy talked about when I met with them. It’s going to affect everybody’s minutes to an extent.”
The Bulls hope LaVine’s impact will …read more
Source:: Chicago Sun-Times – Sports