Zach LaVine returning to Bulls lineup Thursday vs. Hornets after missing 11 games due to protocols, per report

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The Chicago Bulls are getting some much-needed help as All-Star guard Zach LaVine is expected back for Thursday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. LaVine’s return to the lineup comes at a perfect time for the Bulls, who are currently on a four-game losing streak as they desperately fight for a spot in the play-in tournament in the East. 

LaVine missed the last 11 games after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and the Bulls did not fare well at all without their star player. When LaVine’s absence started ,Chicago was 10th in the East, the final spot in the play-in. However, now the Bulls are sitting 12th. Four games separate them and the 10th-place Washington Wizards, who have been surging lately. 

The Bulls went 4-7 while LaVine was sidelined, as they sorely missed the 27.5 points per game he contributes on a nightly basis. With LaVine back in the fold, Chicago has more of a chance to fight back up the standings with seven games remaining on its schedule. It’s not going to be easy, and with several tough matchups against the Celtics, Nets twice and Bucks, Chicago will have to win most, if not all its remaining games at a chance to squeeze into the play-in tournament. With the production LaVine brings on offense for Chicago, it would be foolish to count them out just yet. That said, the Bulls will surely need plenty of help from the teams in front of them to earn a spot.

After making a splash at the trade deadline and acquiring All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic, many expected Chicago to float into the postseason as he would be another offensive weapon alongside LaVine. Despite Vucevic’s consistent numbers since arriving in Chicago, it hasn’t resulted in many wins for the Bulls. Couple that with LaVine’s extended absence and injuries to several key players throughout the year, and Chicago hasn’t been able to find consistent success at all this season. Perhaps LaVine’s return to the lineup will help give this team the jolt it needs in trying to finish the season strong and sneak into the play-in tournament. 

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