After missing some time in January and February due to knee soreness, Bulls guard Zach LaVine had an encouraging visit with a specialist prior to the All-Star break, getting fluid drained from his left knee and getting the OK to return to the court.
However, speaking on Wednesday to reporters, including Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, LaVine admitted that his knee still isn’t back to normal and likely won’t be until next season.
“I mean my knee isn’t 100 percent. That’s just the reality of it,” LaVine said. “… Now, can I still go out here and contribute? I can still do that, but it’s just something I’ve got to fight through until the end of the season. … I might not be 100 percent. But me at 80 percent, 70 percent, whatever it is, it’s still one of the best players in the NBA. So, damn sure one of the best players on the court when we play.”
LaVine said that if his knee didn’t feel “sturdy” or “structurally right,” he wouldn’t be playing, but that’s not the issue — it’s more about dealing with some pain and a more limited range of motion. He plans to continue receiving treatment and playing through the injury for now, then will “deal with it” more thoroughly once the season is over.
“We don’t know what that is going to be and how exactly we’re going to approach it. But it is pretty much like a band-aid,” LaVine said. “It’s making me feel better for the time being and getting me to a place where I feel comfortable playing and being effective on the court over this last stretch. And then the offseason, I’ll deal with whatever I have to.”
As Cowley notes, when asked if he’ll have to undergo surgery in the summer, LaVine didn’t rule out that possibility, suggesting that it’s “going to be a discussion for me and my doctor” to determine what course of action gives him the best chance to get back to 100%.
LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so it’s not ideal timing for him for him to be battling an injury. While he’ll still be a strong candidate for a maximum-salary contract, playing at less than 100% down the stretch and then possibly undergoing a surgical procedure won’t exactly boost his free agent stock. Still, he said today that he’s focused on helping his team and has no interest in shutting himself down for the season.
“I have a big responsibility here with the team, my teammates, my coaches, the city of Chicago. I take a lot of pride in that. It means something to me,” LaVine said. “And I hope people understand that I’m going out here and definitely not putting myself first here in this situation. I don’t get my contract right now. I’m not a free agent until the end of the season. So until then, I’m focused on the season. It’s pretty black and white to me.”