Advertisement

Zach LaVine is unlikely to return before next week’s NBA trade deadline. Has he played his last game as a Chicago Bull?

Only 10 days before the NBA trade deadline, Zach LaVine is no closer to returning to the court for the Chicago Bulls.

LaVine has not returned to practice as he continues to struggle with a right ankle sprain. He was unable to do anything besides receive treatment during the team’s three-game West Coast trip last week.

Coach Billy Donovan said Thursday that LaVine would need at least one more week of rest before the Bulls medical team can reevaluate him. That would mark two full weeks without any exercise — and would make it improbable that LaVine would be able to return by the Feb. 6 home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That’s the Bulls’ last game before the trade window slams shut at 2 p.m. Feb. 8, which raises a question: Has LaVine played his final game in a Bulls uniform?

Donovan said he has received no communication from the Bulls front office on what to expect regarding LaVine’s status after the deadline.

“I have no idea. I really don’t,” Donovan said before Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. “I’d hate to even speculate. I’m taking the approach he’s going to be with us the whole entire year and I hope he can get healthy sooner than later, but nothing’s been told to me that that’s the case.”

It’s clear LaVine is unlikely to play another game before the deadline. Yet despite mutual eagerness for a deal from LaVine and the Bulls front office, options to trade the two-time All-Star and his maximum contract have been hard to find over the last three months.

The Detroit Pistons emerged last week as a new potential trade partner, but the Bulls have remained steadfast in their desire to trade LaVine only for an ample payoff.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas traveled with the team to Phoenix and Los Angeles last week for the first two legs of an eight-day trip. The front office will meet this week to weigh its options before the deadline — and LaVine will be the main topic of conversation.

Donovan will sit in on these meetings, although he said his input typically focuses on the current roster rather than potential additions or trades.

“As a group they’ll generally pick my brain on players,” Donovan said. “But it’s more like the player situation. Because you could sit here and say we need more shooting, you need more rebounding — you could say all those things. When you’re watching film as much as I think all coaches watch film, you start to evaluate and develop a feel to those things. So I’m more interested when there’s things coming to the table.”

LaVine has missed 22 games this season, including 17 straight in December and early January with inflammation in his right foot. He returned for seven games before spraining his ankle against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 18. The Bulls are 12-10 without LaVine and 10-15 with him.

The extended absences have been visibly frustrating for LaVine, who showed a commitment to mold his game to the offensive style that made the Bulls more successful during his earlier absence. He averaged 5.3 assists during his seven-game return from the foot injury.

Adding to the frustration is that LaVine’s future with the Bulls could remain uncertain all the way to the buzzer a week from Thursday.