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REPORT: Zach LaVine Has a Small Ligament Tear in His Thumb (UPDATE)

Chicago Bulls

First thing’s first: It could be much worse.

Initially reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania (and later confirmed by NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson), an MRI has revealed a small ligament tear in Zach LaVine’s thumb. Fortunately, the injury is to his non-shooting hand and the All-Star intends to play through it.

Now, of course, “intends” is different than “will.”

While I fully expect him to try to take the court on Thursday against the New York Knicks, we have no clue how he will respond – both in that moment and long-term. The pain could also prove to be quite the detriment to his production. Even what appears to be a somewhat minor injury like this could still force him out of a rhythm on any given night. Likewise, for a team that now plays a more aggressive defense that feasts on steals and deflections, it’s hard not to worry that LaVine is one poke of the ball away from more severe pain.

With all that said, are we sure LaVine shouldn’t just sit out for some period of time? I know the team is about to embark on the gauntlet portion of their schedule, but we are only four games into the season. The Bulls have added more talent to this roster for a reason and leaning on that talent to ensure a 100 percent healthy LaVine for a playoff push feels like it could be the best path forward.

Again, I guess it all comes down to how he looks out there. But I keep having flashbacks to LaVine trying to play on his ankle injury last season only to have the team eventually have to sit him out.* The last thing we want to do is delay the inevitable.

Ugh … right when life felt so good.

*Michael: That’s the concern for me. Typically, a medical staff will allow a player to play through something when only pain is at stake (i.e. not further injury). But medical staffs are not always correct. The injury, itself, and the comment “it’s a matter of pain tolerance” leads me to believe there’s no further risk of injury by playing through, but obviously that would be the concern based on our experience. And even in that case, as Eli points out above, the Bulls will have to decide whether Zach LaVine at 85% effectiveness is better than whoever would replace him in the rotation.

UPDATE (12:43)

Zach LaVine met with reporters on Wednesday shortly after news broke of a thumb injury that he intends to play through. With his thumb wrapped up, the All-Star guard said scans showed a “small tear” in his tendon, and he would equate it to something between a “Grade 1 to 2 sprain.”

According to the Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw, LaVine did participate in parts of practice this morning, but he does not yet have a read for what things might feel like when he takes the court tomorrow.

Again, the good news is that LaVine’s injury does not appear as if it will get worse while on the floor. But we do have to wonder how long he will deal with pain considering he will put plenty of pressure on that hand over the next few weeks. We’ll have to keep an eye out for how he is treating it during tomorrow’s game, and whether or not he shows any signs of discomfort.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.