The Latest on Zach LaVine’s Knee: Some Good, Some Bad, Some Grey

At the All-Star media session in Cleveland this morning, Zach LaVine addressed the knee issues that’ve hampered him throughout the year, causing him to miss the last three games before the break and multiple games last month. Your reaction to his comments and course of treatment, however, will likely depend on your flavor of optimism.

Generally speaking, things are good. LaVine said that his knee feels great after his visit with the same Los Angeles area specialist that performed his ACL surgery in February 2017 (Dr. Neal ElAttrache) and that skipping the last three games before the break was part of a plan to ensure that he was OK for the second-half of the season. Given that news of his impending trip to see a specialist put a scare into all of us last weekend, today’s update provided some much-needed peace of mind.

Things get grey, however, when you start more closely considering what was done to alleviate the pain and what it could mean for LaVine’s future, which we of course hope is in Chicago.

Cortisone shots are generally administered to dull the pain in an area where there is a very low risk of re-aggravating the injury because you can’t feel it. That course of treatment tracks with the initial (and since re-confirmed) reports that there is no structural damage about which to worry. But there are a couple of caveats here.

For one, LaVine is not at 100 percent right now, nor will he be the rest of the way. That creates some uncertainty as to what his effectiveness will look like during a potentially deep playoff run this spring. For another, cortisone injections are generally a treatment given to delay an inevitable bigger fix down the line. And unfortunately for LaVine, any bigger fix will need to be addressed this offseason, when he will be seeking a max deal. And to that end, it’s in his best interest to push and maintain the greatest sense of optimism regarding his future. Hopefully, these positive reports can be taken at face value.

This is especially important to note, because these knee issues have already doomed LaVine’s chances at an All-NBA team this season, thus making him ineligible for the super-max. But either way, this is all pretty much points to the conclusion by LaVine, the Bulls, and his specialist, that playing the rest of the season is not putting him at risk of making his knee issues worse, and that’s good news for Bulls fans.

***

As for what this means for the offseason, we’ll have to wait and see and hope for the best-case scenario. This might be something that LaVine will have to learn to live with and manage. The American Journal of Sports Medicine found in a 2017 study that “about 75 percent of people who underwent ACL reconstructive surgery had arthritis findings on x-rays of their knee within 10-15 years of the time of surgery” and “young athletes who have reconstructive ACL surgery often face the prospect of managing knee arthritis as soon as they are in their 30s.”

Ultimately, Zach LaVine appears to feel good about the immediate prospects of his knee, and that’s the type of news that the Bulls needed in a season where injuries up and down the roster have decimated them.

Michael Cerami contributed this post.

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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