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The Chicago Bulls experienced the first major threat to their undefeated season Wednesday. All-Star guard Zach LaVine is reportedly dealing with a small ligament tear on the thumb of his non-shooting hand, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
With the Bulls off to a hot start, LaVine intends to play through the injury. Chicago is 4-0 to open the season. LaVine is putting up strong numbers in those games, averaging 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
LaVine appeared to sustain the injury during Monday's win over the Toronto Raptors.
LaVine was wincing and shaking this hand after taking a whack on it during the Raptors game. https://t.co/GocHY8d3sQ
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 27, 2021
LaVine spoke to reporters with his thumb taped Wednesday. He called the injury a small tear in one of his tendons.
Zach LaVine has him thumb taped up today. He called it a small tear in the tendon, like a Grade 1 to 2 sprain. pic.twitter.com/nlrGuZWgkb
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) October 27, 2021
It's unclear whether the issue will affect LaVine's play. If he can still shoot effectively, that would be a significant win for the Bulls. Even then, LaVine's ball handling or ability to grab rebounds could take a hit depending on the severity of the injury. LaVine feels he can play through it now, but that could change if his skills are diminished over the next couple games.
Bulls face tough schedule ahead
Chicago will need LaVine to be at — or near — his best as the team prepares for a tough stretch in its schedule. The Bulls will take on a 2020 playoff team in each of the next 14 games. Two of those games will come against teams that made it to the play-in game, including the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers.
A LaVine injury would hurt, but Chicago did a solid job bringing in talent during the offseason. DeMar DeRozan has put up similar numbers to LaVine through four games. Lonzo Ball has looked like a strong all-around contributor, and Alex Caruso has played excellent defense.
The schedule, combined with LaVine's injury, will make things tough, but the Bulls should have enough talent to remain competitive if it takes LaVine a while to adjust to his injury.