Zach LaVine

Bulls assign Zach LaVine to G League for contact practice

All-Star guard tries to clear final hurdle before return from right foot inflammation

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls assigned Zach LaVine to the Windy City Bulls for Monday's practice at the Advocate Center, his first non-controlled contact session since right foot inflammation sidelined him on Nov. 29.

It's the two-time All-Star guard's final hurdle before his potential return, which could come as early as Friday's home game against the Charlotte Hornets if LaVine doesn't suffer a setback.

The Bulls practiced at the Advocate Center earlier on Monday before departing for Philadelphia, where they begin a two-game trip against the 76ers on Tuesday. They face the Knicks in New York on Wednesday.

The Windy City Bulls don't play again until Friday, giving LaVine an opportunity to take contact in multiple practice situations and see how he responds.

After Monday's practice, coach Billy Donovan talked about the benefit of keeping LaVine, Nikola Vučević and Torrey Craig in Chicago while the team travels East for a back-to-back set of games. Vučević, who is recovering from a strained groin, got up shots individually following Monday's practice, while Craig is further away from returning from a plantar fascia sprain in his right foot.

"I like having those guys on the bench just with their voice. I think it's always good. But their health is the most important thing and getting the back to play," Donovan said. "There's more that they'll have access to (in Chicago) because they're all at a point where they can really do stuff on the court. . . . It's a lot easier for them (in Chicago)."

The Bulls are 10-5 since LaVine last played. Donovan and LaVine's teammates are adamant that the improved record is merely coincidental and that the improved play at both ends can continue whenever LaVine returns. When LaVine last addressed reporters on December 7, the same day he received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right foot, he talked about his injury in light of the off-court speculation about his future.

"It’s the lateral side of my right foot that’s a little inflamed---not even a little bit, it’s pretty inflamed---and it bugs you. It’s a bony, prominent area where you really don’t want to start messing around with that fifth metatarsal area. It gets more irritated," LaVine said. "It’s just smart to calm it down now to where I can get back to 100 percent and hopefully finish this season strong and help everybody out there.

“I think it’s funny (this is tied to off-court speculation). For everybody that knows me, I try to play through everything. This has nothing to do with anything off the court and everything off the court is still very much speculation. It’s funny to me to see all the narratives that people run with. I deal with it internally. It is what it is. I go out there and put my heart on for Chicago whenever I put that jersey on. When I get back out there, I’ll continue to do that.”

Bulls management and LaVine's representation have a strong, professional relationship as both sides work to meet LaVine's openness to playing elsewhere, a stance LaVine arrived at after the Bulls held exploratory trade talks centered on him last offseason. To this point, little market has materialized for LaVine, who endured a difficult start to this season both individually and with the Bulls' 5-14 record.

LaVine is averaging 21 points on 44.3 percent shooting, including 33.6 percent from 3-point range. Both those percentages are well below his All-Star numbers from recent seasons.

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