Bulls Rumors: Zach LaVine Planning to Return to Lineup Thursday vs. Hornets

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 5, 2021

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - APRIL 12: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on April 12, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
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Chicago Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine is reportedly planning to rejoin the lineup for Thursday's road game against the Charlotte Hornets after being sidelined while in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported the update Wednesday. LaVine last played in an April 14 loss to the Orlando Magic.

The 2021 All-Star selection averaged 27.5 points, which ranks seventh in the NBA, along with 5.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.4 threes across 53 appearances before the three-week absence. Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky and Denzel Valentine have combined to fill the void.

LaVine participated in a shootaround Monday before the Bulls' clash with the Philadelphia 76ers, but head coach Billy Donovan said the guard needed a little more time to get ready for game action.

"He probably would be available to play [Monday], but there's just not enough time for him to get his legs back under him and those kind of things," Donovan told reporters. "We just need a little bit of a ramp-up time before he can join the team, going into a back-to-back coming up after this game."

His expected return comes as Chicago attempts to make a late charge into the playoff picture.

The Bulls (26-39) are four games behind the Washington Wizards (30-35) for the 10th seed, which represents the final berth in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. The Charlotte Hornets (32-33), Indiana Pacers (30-34) and Toronto Raptors (27-39) are also involved in a five-team race for three spots.

It leaves virtually no margin for error for Chicago heading into its final seven games, and winning out wouldn't even guarantee the team a spot. So the staff will hope LaVine can quickly return to form to provide a major boost to the offense.

The Bulls have a busy travel schedule in the coming days, with a back-to-back set against the Hornets on the road Thursday and the Boston Celtics at home Friday. They then head right back out for an away game against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.