Zach LaVine is Playing Hurt (Again), All-Star Rosters, Vucevic's Best Game of the Season, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Zach LaVine is Playing Hurt (Again), All-Star Rosters, Vucevic’s Best Game of the Season, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

When All-Star Weekend tips-off in a couple of weeks, the Chicago Bulls will be one of the most well-represented teams in the NBA. DeMar DeRozan landed his starting spot at the All-Star Game last week. Ayo Dosunmu earned his spot in the Rising Stars challenge on Tuesday. And Zach LaVine was officially named an All-Star for the second-consecutive season on Thursday.

Now, if the team can hold onto the East lead for just a couple more games, they could also see head coach Billy Donovan and his staff on the sideline come February 20th.

If you need more proof that Chicago Bulls basketball is back … I’m not sure I can give it to you.

•   Marc Eversley broke the news to Zach LaVine before last night’s battle in Toronto. When the Bulls’ GM uttered the words “you’re an All-Star,” LaVine quickly replied with a “we all are.”  That’s Disney-sports-movie stuff right there!

•   Here is a complete look at the 2022 NBA All-Star player pool. Remember: Not everyone on this list is expected to play in the big game due to varying injuries, so Commissioner Adam Silver will pick replacement All-Stars when the team is right. Call Ayo Dosunmu, you coward!

•   As delectable as all these All-Star vibes have been, the mix of a tough Bulls loss and banged-up Zach LaVine leaves a sour taste in my mouth. LaVine got the A-OK to play last night despite ending up the injury report with bask spasms. The injury clearly limited his action, holding him to just 15 points, which made for his fewest in a game since the team’s demolition of Detroit on January 11th (I’m not including the game on January 14th when LaVine exited with 0 points after roughly 3 minutes of action due to a knee injury). LaVine did contribute in other areas of the box score, dishing 7 assists, grabbing 5 rebounds, and recording 2 steals with a block. Overall, he still finished tied for a team-high +4, but it’s still worrisome to see him in very noticeable pain after the game, especially when we consider last night started a stretch of seven games in 10 days.

•   LaVine told reporters he got hit “really hard” a handful of days ago and his back started to spasm. He first played through the issue in the team’s last performance against the Orlando Magic, where he dropped 26 points on 8-17 shooting. The two-time All-Star wasn’t coy about the pain he felt while sitting with the media, saying in a rather short matter “it hurts, that’s what happens when you play a 42-minute game with back spasms.”

•   I’m sure the manner of the loss played a partial role in LaVine’s glum mood, but it’s also clear he can’t perform at 100 percent right now. While I know this is an important stretch for the Bulls, this also isn’t playoff basketball. He doesn’t need to be James Harden on a bum hamstring or Giannis Antetokounmpo on a bum knee. LaVine should take a day off if it means the Bulls can get him at 100 percent sooner than later. We’ll see if that happens with another game tonight. He did say the team would at least “talk about it” depending on how he feels in the morning.

•   If you told me Nikola Vucevic prints out hateful tweets, tapes them to the ceiling, and reads them repeatedly while bench pressing to ear-melting heavy metal … I’d believe you. The big man has eight double-doubles in his last nine games, averaging 21.0 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on a 52.3 percent clip from the field. Last night, he was the sole reason the Chicago Bulls were able to stay as close as they were, even nailing the clutch go-ahead clutch basket at the end of an absolutely wild sequence:

•   Of course, the Raptors would go on to tie the game with an absurdly clutch tip-in by rookie Scottie Barnes before winning the game in OT. But Vucevic deserves all the credit in the world for taking advantage of a Raptors team with weakness at the center position. He continued the kind of aggressive and physical play that was largely absent during the beginning of the season, and it was encouraging to see his teammates prioritize getting him the ball in his spots.

•   I’ve talked ad nauseam about Vucevic’s ability to still impact the Bulls in a positive way despite his shooting struggles this season, and this stat by Will helps show why:

•   Ayo Dosunmu has played like nothing short of a 32-year-old veteran this season, but he finally looked his age in OT last night. With a tight game on the line, he made two massive rookie mistakes in OT: Dribbling into big man Chris Boucher along the baseline for the easy Raptors steal and passing the ball to a heavily covered Zach LaVine for a self-inflicted dagger turnover. The Raptors went on to nail the 3 that put them up two scores with 16 seconds to go.

“I think being in moments like that as a rookie, he’s going to have to go through some learning and growing pains a bit. It doesn’t happen overnight, Donovan said after the game. “With guys like Alex Caruso being out and Lonzo being out, this will hopefully make our team better once we do get whole that he’s got to go play in some of these situations. 

•   So … can he play yet?

•   You have to watch this at least 10 times. I don’t make the rules.

•   Anthony Edwards is one of the funniest young guys in the league.

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.