Zach LaVine will be in the starting lineup when he makes his debut with the Bulls tonight, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. LaVine’s recovery from a torn left ACL took about 11 months, which is about two months longer than originally projected, but Chicago wanted to be sure he was fully healthy before letting him play.
“Extremely excited, ready to get back to playing again,” LaVine said. “You wait all this time, do all this rehab. It doesn’t simulate actual games. Going through practices and scrimmages don’t give you that full itch. Now I have something I can go after.”
LaVine will take over the starting spot occupied by Denzel Valentine, who has started 31 of the team’s 42 games. Justin Holiday will stay in the starting lineup, but will move to small forward. Coach Fred Hoiberg said LaVine will be restricted to 20 minutes per game for about a week, then his playing time will slowly expand.
There’s more news from the Central Division:
- Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is refusing to discuss his trade prospects, writes Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune. Mirotic, who has been linked to deals involving the Jazz, Pistons and Trail Blazers, will become eligible for a trade Monday. “To be honest I don’t listen too much to what is going on outside,” he said. “I just focus on what is going on here and up to my last day try to be the best player possible and be professional and help this team to be able to win.”
- Kay Felder, who signed a two-way deal with the Pistons today, has been talking to the organization for a couple of weeks, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. The Pistons first contacted Felder when starting point guard Reggie Jackson suffered a sprained right ankle in late December. Felder, who has previous NBA experience with the Cavaliers and Bulls, will have 23 NBA days under his new deal and may spend most of that time filling in for Jackson, who isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.
- Bucks ownership remains hopeful for a 50-win season despite an up-and-down first half of the year, relays Rich Kirchen of The Milwaukee Business Journal. The Bucks hit the midpoint at 22-19, but there are reasons for optimism with the expected return of Jabari Parker next month and a possible trade for a center before the February 8 deadline. “I think 50 [wins] is tough,” said co-owner Marc Lasry. “We’ll be over 45. Hopefully we get to 50. That would be great. I hope so, but it’s going to be hard.”