Bulls hoping for no interruptions once LaVine makes his season debut
Isaiah Thomas had a successful debut for Cleveland on Tuesday, scoring 17 points in 19 minutes against Portland after recovering from a hip injury.
A day later, when the Cavaliers visited his old home in Boston, Thomas was inactive except for waving at fans and riding a stationary bike.
The Bulls are hoping to avoid that scenario with Zach LaVine. The hopeful plan is when he's back, he's back -- ready to play significant minutes and in no need of days off.
Whether that's the way it pans out remains to be seen, but LaVine definitely feels ready to run and dunk for real.
"Ideally, I wish I could play tomorrow," LaVine said Thursday. "In a perfect world, I could play right now but it's not a perfect world. I'm just going to wait and see, see how my body feels. Go through these meetings and we're going to find a date soon."
It's difficult to think of many instances in the NBA when an established player made his debut with a new team midway through the season due to an existing injury. But it's going to happen twice within a week or two, depending on when the Bulls decide to take the plunge with LaVine.
After this weekend's trip to Dallas and Indiana, the Bulls won't play games on back-to-back nights for five weeks. So this appears to be a good time to launch LaVine's Bulls' career, perhaps as soon as Monday against Houston.
"We're excited to have him," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "But we have to make sure he's 100 percent ready to go. And when he is cleared and ready to get back in uniform, we'll have him back for the long haul. It's not something where he's in and out of the lineup.
"Today is an important day. This road trip is important as far as getting everybody on the same page and getting his mentality right."
LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee last year on Feb. 3 while playing for Minnesota. He was averaging 18.9 points at the time of his injury. He was traded to the Bulls on draft night in June for Jimmy Butler.
The two-time slam dunk contest champion completed his personal, six-day training camp on Thursday, then traveled with the Bulls to Dallas. He'll participate in shootaround and walk-throughs this weekend. On Sunday, a date could be chosen for his return.
"It's about getting everybody together and trying to find that absolute perfect day, which is hard to say," Hoiberg said. "You're not sitting here with a crystal ball."
It doesn't appear LaVine will play any games for the Windy City Bulls to get his feet wet, though Hoiberg didn't rule it out. LaVine has participated in several practices with Windy City, since the Bulls haven't had much practice time due to their busy game schedule.
Hoiberg expressed concern that it will take some time for LaVine to get acclimated to his new teammates, since he hasn't practiced much with the full team. LaVine figures he might as well get on the court and get that process started.
"It's been a long time coming and once you get to a point where you know you're close enough to play, that's when you get anxious," he said. "You just try to be as patient as you can but know it's going to be very soon.
"You don't want to play 10 minutes a game. I want to go out there and play, show what I can do and help the team. If it is 10 minutes, I will make the best of it. I think we're going to talk about it in the next couple days."
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Bulls game dayBulls vs. Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center, 7:30 p.m. Friday
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WLS 890-AM
Outlook: Like the Bulls, Dallas (13-26) has made a nice improvement this season after a slow start. The Mavericks were 3-15 on Nov. 20, but won four in a row until losing a tight game to Golden State on Wednesday. PG Dennis Smith Jr. ranks sixth among NBA rookie scorers at 13.8 ppg. SF Harrison Barnes is Dallas' top scorer at with 18.4 ppg. PF Dirk Nowitzki, at age 39, is averaging just 12.1 points in his 20th NBA season. The Bulls have lost four straight in the series, but are 3-3 in their last six trips to Dallas.
Next: Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday, 6 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw