Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine is well on his way to making his second consecutive All-Star Game. The two-time Slam Dunk champion is sixth in the league in scoring, and his dominant play is one of the reasons the Bulls have the top record in the Eastern Conference.
However, this season hasn’t been entirely smooth for LaVine. Not only did he contract COVID-19 for a second time, but he also suffered a torn ligament in his non-shooting hand and had to wear a protective tape.
The tape on LaVine’s left thumb prevented him from shooting the ball how he wanted to, and Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said his star guard had trouble gripping the ball with his left hand while playing through the injury. The good news is that LaVine ditched the protective tape on November 24, and he sent a scary message to the NBA while updating his left thumb.
Zach LaVine: “Everything is all healthy”
LaVine told Bulls reporters on January 6 that his thumb is feeling much better now. He’s back to shooting the ball how he wants to. That’s great for the Bulls and bad for the rest of the NBA.
“I tore a ligament in my thumb. So it was pretty tough playing with it. I just thought I would have to deal with it a lot longer,” LaVine said, via NBC Sports Chicago. “Luckily, I did the treatment and the training staff did a really good job of staying on top of it. And my body just healed. Luckily, I didn’t get hit in that thumb again. I think that was the main thing. Everything is all healthy. Knock on wood. It should stay that way.”
According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, LaVine shot 37.5% from 3-point range in the 14 games he played with the protective tape. In 15 games since he ditched his protection, the UCLA product has been on fire from deep, and that bodes well for the Bulls and not so well for their competition.
Zach LaVine is shooting 45.4% from beyond the arc since removing protective tape
LaVine is averaging 26.8 points, 4.9 assists, and only 2.8 turnovers while shooting 51.2% from the field and 45.4% from beyond the arc since taking his protective tape off. The Bulls are clicking on all cylinders, and Donovan is grateful to be coaching a player like LaVine.
“Zach, at least since I’ve been with him, has always been a guy who plays through stuff. It’s very difficult to keep him off the floor,” Donovan said. “He’s also smart, too. I don’t want to make it seem like he’s not making wise choices. Like, if it’s going to be something where it’s not going to necessarily cause more problems and he feels like he can play, he’s going to play. It’s just the way he’s always been. And I really appreciate that out of him.”
LaVine is averaging 26.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on the season. He’s shooting 49.7% from the field, 42.0% from beyond the arc, and 85.7% from the free-throw line. The 26-year-old deserves a lot of credit for playing through the ligament tear, which is a non-issue now, and the Bulls are certainly hoping that LaVine and DeMar DeRozan can continue their superstar production for the rest of the season.
With both players 100%, the odds of that happening are high.
Bulls have arguably best duo in the NBA
LaVine and DeRozan are the only teammates to rank top-six in scoring. The latter (26.9) is fourth, while the former (26.3) is sixth. The Bulls are 25-10 and have the 10th-best scoring offense in the NBA (110.7). This team gets along on and off the court, and LaVine and DeRozan are motivated to shut all the critics up who said they wouldn’t fit together.
Chicago hasn’t had two starters in an All-Star Game since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in 1997. There’s a good chance LaVine and DeRozan are voted in as starters this season, and both guys deserve it since they have turned the Bulls into contenders.
Now that LaVine’s left thumb is healed, expect him to continue to light it up from beyond the arc. This season, the Bulls have already been a dangerous team, but they could become even more difficult to stop moving forward since LaVine is back to his old self.