As LaVine approaches return, will Bulls even try to keep things rolling?
Zach LaVine, about to begin his personal six-day training camp, was asked Saturday how his patience was holding up in the 11-month process of recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee.
"It's almost ran out," he said. "I'm still there listening to everybody, but I feel ready. I'm antsy. I feel that's a good thing."
Saturday was the beginning of a planned six-day stretch of heavy practice for LaVine. He'll do four days of workouts with the Windy City Bulls before rejoining his teammates on Thursday.
After that, no one is saying what will happen. If LaVine feels good, he might make his Bulls debut. Or he could play a game or two in the G-League to get his feet wet. Or they could keep waiting.
The Bulls are taking a wait-and-see approach to LaVine's return, but he obviously feels ready. Asked if he's in slam-dunk contest shape, LaVine said, "I'm close. I don't know if I have 100 percent my legs back but I can definitely go out there and get buckets. That's all I know."
LaVine won the slam dunk contest in each of his first two NBA seasons. His third season was cut short by the ACL injury last year on Feb. 3, then he was traded from Minnesota to the Bulls last summer.
There's an added level of intrigue to LaVine's return, since the rebuilding season took a shocking turn. The Bulls have produced the NBA's best record since Dec. 8 at 10-2, thanks to the emergence of Kris Dunn, return of Nikola Mirotic and several other factors.
One question facing the Bulls is whether they'll keep the roster intact and see how things play out, or if they'll make some trades to try to ensure a better draft pick. LaVine made his preference clear.
"I mean we're playing so well you don't want to interfere with that," he said. "But that's not a decision for me or anybody on the team. We go out there to play and win and prove ourselves and impress. That's what we're going to do."
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was equally vague about management's plans. Granted, coaches and players don't have much control over what happens before the trade deadline.
"The thing that all of us can focus on is going out and doing our job every day," Hoiberg said. "And that's what we're stressing to our guys is to go out there and worry about the day and to make positive strides. I think our guys have accomplished that."
One national website rated Hoiberg the league's worst coach last season. Now he's about to win the NBA's Eastern Conference coach of the month award for December, but he's refusing to gloat.
"I give our guys a lot of credit," he said. "It's been a fun group of guys to coach and be around because of their attention to detail and their work ethic."
The Bulls might as well let things play out this season. There is no transaction that will guarantee a top-five draft pick next June. And why in the world would the Bulls want to trade Mirotic right now? He's averaging 18.1 points and shooting 48 percent from 3-point range this season.
The Bulls' preferred lineup of two outside-shooting big men -- Mirotic paired with either rookie Lauri Markkanen or Bobby Portis -- has been carving up opposing defenses. Since Dec. 8, the Bulls have ranked fourth in the league in scoring and second in pace. Adding another athletic slasher and 3-point shooter like LaVine should make the Bulls even better, in theory.
"I'm working every day to fit myself into the role they need me to be in and get chemistry down with everybody," LaVine said. "It's great to see everybody playing well with confidence and us being on a roll."
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Complete turnaroundAt 3-20, the Bulls owned the NBA's worst record on Dec. 7. But since Dec. 8, they've been the league's best team.
Best NBA records since Dec. 8:Team W-L Pct.
Bulls 10-2 .833
Golden State 8-2 .800
Toronto 9-3 .750
Oklahoma City 9-3 .750
San Antonio 8-3 .727
Minnesota 7-3 .700