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updated: 4/2/2018 8:02 PM

Chicago Bulls officially rule LaVine, Dunn out for season

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  • The Chicago Bulls and head coach Fred Hoiberg will get through the final five games of the NBA season without Zach LaVine, right, who played in only 24 games this season, averaging 16.7 points.

    The Chicago Bulls and head coach Fred Hoiberg will get through the final five games of the NBA season without Zach LaVine, right, who played in only 24 games this season, averaging 16.7 points.
    Associated Press

 
 

The calendar was moving forward and the Chicago Bulls decided it was time to confirm the obvious Monday: Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn won't play again this season.

The last time either player saw the court was March 15 at Memphis. A day later, the team announced LaVine had a sore knee, Dunn had an injury similar to turf toe, and they've been on the shelf ever since.

Would they be playing if the Bulls were contending for a playoff spot? Maybe, but it doesn't really matter.

The Bulls just won two in a row, but they haven't been particularly interested in winning games or building chemistry for the future. If all goes well, they'll collect two first-round picks this summer and head into next season trying to win.

Coach Fred Hoiberg, who missed Sunday's victory over Washington with an illness, made it to Monday's practice at the Advocate Center and spoke briefly to reporters in a hoarse voice. He lamented the fact that the Bulls never really got to see their nucleus of Dunn, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen together very much this season.

"We won those first two games (after LaVine returned from ACL surgery) playing some of our best basketball," Hoiberg said. "I wish we could've kept that going. As Zach's minutes increased, we were playing so well and with so much confidence.

"Unfortunately that next game, Kris Dunn goes down. We just weren't able to see exactly what that would've looked like when we were playing our best basketball."

The Chicago Bulls have decided to shut down guard Kris Dunn, left, for the rest of the season. Dunn played in 52 games, averaging 13.4 points per game with 6.0 assists and 4.3 turnovers.
The Chicago Bulls have decided to shut down guard Kris Dunn, left, for the rest of the season. Dunn played in 52 games, averaging 13.4 points per game with 6.0 assists and 4.3 turnovers. - Associated Press

The timeline went like this: Dunn led the Bulls on a 14-7 surge that began Dec. 8 with a win at Charlotte. LaVine made his Bulls debut Jan. 13 against Detroit and played in the final two games of that surge. On Jan. 17 against Golden State, Dunn suffered a concussion when he lost his balance on a fastbreak dunk and hit the floor hard. Dunn was sidelined for a month, and the Bulls never built any positive momentum the rest of the way.

"When I go back and watch those games -- the Miami game (Jan. 15) I just watched last week -- it's exciting and fun," Hoiberg said. "We were playing a really good brand of basketball. That gives me a lot of hope for what's to come. It's going to take a lot of work in the off-season to get that chemistry right."

The Bulls brought Markkanen back after five games off with a sore back, and he has started to find a rhythm. Within the past week, he scored 22 points at Houston and 23 on Sunday against Washington.

Overall, LaVine averaged 16.7 points this season, while Dunn was at 13.4 points and 6 assists. Both players had several limited-minute games that brought down their averages and both showed plenty of positive signs.

"I don't think there was any point where Lauri, Zach and Kris were ever at their own peak when they were playing together," center Robin Lopez said Monday. "That's a tantalizing aspect that we haven't even seen yet."

Whether Lopez will be around next season remains to be seen. He is under contract for one more year and it might depend on whether the Bulls draft a center this summer.

"I've seen Pax (John Paxson), I've seen Gar (Forman) around," Lopez said. "The way they're talking, it seems I'll be here next year. It's a business, who knows.

"I definitely see the pieces in place. Obviously playoffs isn't the main goal, but it's the next step for us."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.

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