LaVine says heart still with Bulls despite injury

NBA

CHICAGO — Bulls guard Zach LaVine denied Thursday that his right foot injury was tied to his future with the organization, saying he remained committed to Chicago and to helping the team win once he returned from injury.

“For everybody that knows me, I try to play through everything,” LaVine said at the team’s practice facility Thursday afternoon. “This [injury] has nothing to do with anything off the court, and everything off the court is still very much speculation.

“It’s funny to me to see all the narratives that people run with. It is what it is. I go out there and put my heart on for Chicago whenever I put that jersey on. When I get back out there, I’ll continue to do that.”

LaVine has not played since Nov. 28, when he scored two points in 24 minutes in a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics. The Bulls announced after Wednesday’s 111-100 victory over the Charlotte Hornets that LaVine will miss an additional three to four weeks with right foot inflammation.

LaVine provided clarity on the injury Thursday, saying he had inflammation on the lateral part of his foot and had received a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection earlier that morning. Initially, he had hoped to return as soon as Friday’s game in San Antonio, but when he started to ramp up activity, his foot became more irritated.

“It’s just smart to calm it down now to where I can get back to 100 percent and hopefully finish this season strong and help everybody out there,” he said.

On Thursday, LaVine’s tune sounded much different than it had the previous month, when he dodged questions about whether he desired to be traded elsewhere after the team’s 4-7 start. After multiple reports surfaced in November stating that both LaVine and the Bulls were open to exploring a trade, LaVine expressed his frustration with the team not winning and referred to his agent, Rich Paul, to speak on his behalf regarding trade discussions.

However, while LaVine has missed the past three games, the Bulls have put together their first three-game winning streak of the season. Their offense has produced a season-high 32 assists in two of those three victories, and the team is showing some fight after a disastrous start to the season.

“Whatever may have sparked it — if it was me off the court and that’s a narrative that people want to run with it — we’ve won three games, I’m happy for it,” LaVine said Thursday. “Hopefully I can get this foot right to get back out there and help my guys. I’ve been in the locker room every day and out here training trying to get back out there to help everybody out because it’s fun when you’re winning.

“This last three-game winning streak shows what we were trying to do at training camp.”

LaVine had not been producing at his usual level through the first 18 games, averaging 21.0 points on 44% shooting, both his lowest totals since joining the Bulls coming off ACL surgery in 2017-18.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that there “is not a market for Zach LaVine right now” adding that it was not for lack of trying from Chicago.

If LaVine is forced to miss the next month with the injury, his return could come sometime in mid-January. While 82 of the free agents signed this offseason will be eligible to be traded when the calendar hits Dec. 15, all players who signed this summer will be eligible to be traded on Jan. 15.

But LaVine said he was not thinking about whether he had played his last game for Chicago, doubling down that he was focused on getting back and helping the Bulls win games.

“The main thing I’m thinking about is getting my foot right, help these guys continue winning and playing like this,” LaVine said.

“Am I still a part of this team and very committed? Yeah. I’ve got a Bulls jersey on and committed here. For as long as I’ll be here, I’ll still support and love Chicago and go out there and play my heart out for these guys. That’s never gon’ change.”

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