(670 The Score) After a prolonged absence, Bulls guard Zach LaVine has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and the hope is he can return to game action when Chicago visits Charlotte on Thursday, coach Billy Donovan said.
LaVine has rejoined the team in full but will miss his 11th straight game when the Bulls host the 76ers at the United Center on Monday evening. LaVine did individual work over the weekend but isn’t yet in game shape, so he’s lining up for a return Thursday. The Bulls don’t play Tuesday or Wednesday, so LaVine will have a chance to practice in full.
“It’s just a matter right now of Zach and the medical, just with him being out for as long as he’s been out, getting his legs back under him,” Donovan said.
“We just need a little bit of a ramp-up time before he can join the team, certainly going into a back-to-back (Thursday-Friday) coming up after this game.”
LaVine landed in the health protocols on April 15. The Bulls are 4-6 in his absence in this recent stretch, and they sit three games behind the Wizards for the final play-in berth with eight regular-season games remaining. LaVine is averaging a team-high 27.5 points in an All-Star season.
“He’s excited to be back playing,” Donovan said. “For him, getting in the gym was good. Obviously, we were out of town with that back-to-back (at Atlanta on Saturday). But he was able to get into the gym and get some work in and be monitored to see how he was doing. He responded to everything under the NBA guidelines as it relates to the protocols.”
In other injury news, All-Star center Nikola Vucevic will miss his second straight game Monday with adductor tightness. Vucevic had imaging taken on his hip, and it revealed “nothing significant,” Donovan said. The Bulls are unsure of whether Vucevic will be ready to play Thursday.
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.