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“We’re going to miss him,” Karnišovas said. “But we’ll see him soon and wish him well his recovery.”
The Bulls previously said LaVine would need four to six months of rehabilitation. But while LaVine will miss the remainder of the 2023-24 season, a source close to LaVine said he hopes to be back sooner, perhaps in three months, to begin his typical offseason work. Time is on his side either way, with training camp not until the Fall.
Sources said LaVine underwent surgery to “clean up” a foot injury suffered as a youth basketball player, which all NBA teams knew about when he went through the NBA Draft combine process. And LaVine never had experienced foot issues in 10 NBA seasons until the right foot inflammation surfaced this season, costing him 17 games.
LaVine returned to play seven games, during which the Bulls went 5-2, before he rolled his right ankle, a minor injury that re-aggravated the foot discomfort. That led LaVine and his representative, in consultation with the Bulls training and medical staffs, to seek additional medical opinions and ultimately opt for surgery.
Whenever LaVine returns to full strength, the bigger question is his standing within the organization given that the organization held exploratory trade talks on him last offseason. Those talks, and the fact the Bulls began the season 5-14, led LaVine and his representation to convey to management an openness to working together on finding him a new home should they choose to make changes.
The source close to LaVine emphasized that LaVine never specifically asked to be traded.
“I think we have a great relationship with Zach and a great relationship with his representation in Rich Paul. I think we always work together. His thoughts are always about the team and he’s trying to win and he’s trying to win when he’s healthy,” Karnišovas said. “Unfortunately, now he’s going to have to wait until he’s healthy. But we’re better with Zach on the team.”
LaVine recovered from a torn ACL in 2017 and an arthroscopic procedure on the same left knee in 2022 to be a durable player. He played 77 games last season.
But LaVine now has three surgeries on his resume, along with $138 million remaining over the next three seasons of his maximum contract. He also has a 15 percent trade kicker that could be negotiated lower if needed to make a trade work.
The Bulls held talks with multiple teams before LaVine opted for foot surgery, including the Detroit Pistons. Asked if he’s concerned about a potential rocky relationship should the Bulls not be able to trade LaVine this coming offseason, Karnišovas said no.
“I don’t have any concerns. I think Zach wants to win. Bottom line, we’re a better team with Zach on the team,” Karnišovas said. “It’s as simple as that.”
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