Bulls' Zach LaVine helped Nuggets' Jamal Murray during ACL rehab

Zach LaVine helped Nuggets' Murray during ACL rehab originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Zach LaVine knows how grueling long-term knee rehab can be.

Five months before being traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2017, and amid a breakout season, the then 21-year-old tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a Minnesota Timberwolves game. The injury threw his young NBA career into flux for a time.

So when Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray suffered the same injury in April 2021, leading to a lengthy rehab process that culminated in a return for the start of the 2022-23 season, LaVine was happy to be a sounding board, as the Denver Post detailed in January.

"Me and 'Mal cool. If he ever needs any questions or anything like that, obviously I was there to talk to him," LaVine said after a recent Bulls practice ahead of Sunday's home matchup with the Nuggets. "I've gone through it. Obviously we're both in the New Balance family, so we know each other. And we have a good relationship."

Indeed, LaVine and Murray are both under the New Balance umbrella now and were teammates at Adidas before that.

The advice LaVine shared, he said, was based on questions Murray had about workouts or returning to play.

"The little aches and pains, ups and downs you might go through. People are gonna expect you to come back and be 100 percent right away and it's just not gonna happen," LaVine said. "You have to be OK with that."

Through 11 games, Murray is averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.6 rebounds (in 28.4 minutes) while shooting 43.1 percent and 34.7 percent from 3-point range. Solid production, but below his pre-injury standard, which speaks to LaVine's point about riding out the peaks and valleys that can come with re-finding one's comfort on the court.

Nevertheless, the NBA fraternity rejoiced to see Murray's return. And while the Bulls will do everything in their power to knock off the 8-4 Nuggets at the United Center on Sunday, surely LaVine is happy to be lining up across from his friend once again.

"You never want to see anybody in the NBA (go through that). Injuries are the worst thing in sports," LaVine said. "If you've walked through the fire before with injuries and long times off, and major injuries like that, you know where somebody's coming from and where they've been. So I think you just have a better understanding."

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