Bulls' Zach LaVine out against Nets with knee soreness

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LaVine out against Nets with knee soreness originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bulls were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday night, when the Washington Wizards sealed their play-in bid with a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And in advance of Saturday's matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan announced Zach LaVine as out with knee soreness. Tomáš Satoranský (left ankle sprain), Daniel Theis (right hip contusion) and Troy Brown Jr. (left ankle sprain) will also miss the game.

"He's been dealing with some knee issues. Nothing serious," Donovan said of LaVine. "More like I think on the tendinitis side. But he's been pretty sore. So he had a chance to meet, get some treatment with medical and I just think for him he's feeling some discomfort there and we're just obviously gonna be protective of him and making sure that if we do go out there he's healthy."

LaVine made clear when he returned from missing 11 games with COVID-19 that he had no intentions of resting down the stretch, mathematically eliminated or no. Saturday marks just the second game he's missed this season for non-COVID reasons.

"If that conversation comes up, it won’t be coming from me," he said in his first comments to reporters after clearing health and safety protocols.

So this is no phantom ailment. Every player fight through nicks and bruises this time of year. LaVine is a foundational piece for the future, and preserving his health is and should be a priority.

Still, he wasn't listed on the 8:30 p.m. ET injury report from Thursday night, which listed Theis and Brown as out and Satoranský as questionable. That report was published while the Wizards and Cavaliers were still playing.

Even devoid of a playoff path, the Bulls' final two games have meaning. As of Saturday, the 30-40 Bulls own the eighth-highest odds at the June 22 draft lottery, with the 31-39 New Orleans Pelicans (No. 9) and Sacramento Kings (No. 10) each a half-game behind them.

The Bulls only retain their first-round selection this season if it falls in the top four by way of the Nikola Vučević trade. Being in eighth gives them a 26.3 percent chance of getting there. In ninth, the Pelicans' odds of such a leap are 17.3 percent, while the Kings' are 16.9 percent. A significant difference.

Donovan, as one would expect, centered his focus on the Bulls' final two regular-season games in his pregame comments, and took a "we'll see" stance on what the team's rotation will look like for them. The Bulls close the campaign by hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on the back end of a back-to-back Sunday night.

"I'll talk to AK about that," Donovan said of potentially resting players. "We'll see going forward into the Milwaukee game how we come out of this game what we look like."

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