LaVine limited with thumb injury, but put up typical numbers

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, center, battles for the ball against New York Knicks guards Kemba Walker, left, and Evan Fournier during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, center, battles for the ball against New York Knicks guards Kemba Walker, left, and Evan Fournier during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 10/29/2021 7:19 PM

While the Bulls will be without forward Patrick Williams for 4-6 months due to a left-wrist injury, Zach LaVine is trying to walk a tightrope with his injured left thumb.

LaVine played his first full game Thursday with the left thumb taped up and seemed to be his normal self. He produced 25 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the 140-103 loss to the Knicks.

 

"It wasn't pleasant, but it's doable," LaVine said after the game. "There's certain shots and ways I can't go, it's like I'm dribbling with four fingers. So first game playing it out to see how it was, it wasn't bad. I got it going a little bit, then I went through a little bit of a slump when they started blitzing. Just got to find ways to manage it."

LaVine was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament. So it's very possible the thumb could be hurt again, the ligament could tear, he'd need surgery and be out a few months. He planned to spend Friday experimenting with different ways to protect the injury.

"There's not a lot you can do with it," he said. "Obviously, if I don't tape it I'm going to be at risk for tearing it. Even with the tape, there is. It was pretty protected, it got hit a couple times. I'm OK.

"It doesn't affect my shooting as much because I shoot with my hand out of the way. But gripping the ball and handling the ball is tough. So that's why I'm trying to find easier ways to get some shots or less dribbles."

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LaVine seemed to be avoiding his left hand early in the game but said he got more comfortable and stopped thinking about it.

"I guess I was guarding it a little bit. The last play, I stuck it in there and Julius (Randle) almost took my hand off," he said.

"It will be like this for a little bit. Knock on wood, nothing happens in the game to where it re-aggravates it. They were telling me it's almost like a Grade 2 ankle sprain but in my thumb. So it's going to take some time."

Thibs likes new direction:

One of the major storylines early in the NBA season is the change in officiating designed to not reward players for seeking out contact.

James Harden is the extreme early example. Two years ago with Houston, Harden led the league with 11.7 free-throw attempts per game. Last season, he dropped to 7.3 per game in Brooklyn. So far this season, he ranks 72nd in the league, averaging just 3 free-throw attempts.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was asked his thoughts Thursday.

"I like the path that we're on," he said. "No one wants to go to a game and watch a game of free throws being shot. There's no rhythm to that. That's not the intent of the game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"If you went back to 20 years ago, you had to make an aggressive move to the basket to get to the free-throw line. One thing about NBA players, they're very, very smart. They're going to figure out how the game's being officiated and then they've going to take advantage."

Among the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan is in the top 10 in free-throw attempts for the second year in a row. Zach LaVine's attempts have risen from 5.1 to 6.0.

Noah's 'son' grows up:

Here's one more from Joakim Noah, talking about former Bulls teammates Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose playing for the Knicks.

"These are great guys," Noah said. "I see how Taj is moving around, not just on the court but also in the community. I'm really proud of the man he is, and it's crazy, that's my son and now he's like an OG. Same with Derrick."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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