LaVine returns from five-game absence, lifts Bulls

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The Chicago Bulls are getting one star back for Monday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, while simultaneously resting another.

Zach LaVine is in the starting lineup on Monday night after missing the past five games with a left knee injury. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan will not play against the Thunder as he rests on the second night of a back-to-back.

LaVine has not played since removing himself from the game in the first quarter on Jan. 14 against the Warriors after feeling soreness in his left knee. An MRI did not reveal any structural damage, but after the Bulls initially ruled him out until middle to late next week, his knee continued to improve enough for him to join the team on Monday.

In 38 games this season, LaVine is averaging 24.9 points, 4.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds on 49% shooting.

“Anytime you take that kind of scoring off the floor, you don’t want to necessarily feel like one person has got to make it up, but you’ve got to do it collectively as a unit there,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said before Monday’s game about playing through this stretch without LaVine. “His ability to both generate things for himself and for others is always something he does at an incredibly high level.”

LaVine returned to the court alongside guard Javonte Green, who had not played since Dec. 31 with a groin injury. While LaVine has been cleared to return to his normal workload, Donovan planned to limit Green to no more than 25 minutes in his first game back.

This is also the first time DeRozan, 32, will rest this season.

“With the stretch that we’ve had with these makeup games and so many games condensed, there would be conversations that we have,” Donovan said. “With DeMar, physically just where he’s at, he needs a break here.”

Bulls guard Alex Caruso had surgery on his right wrist on Monday morning, which went well, according to Donovan.

Guard Lonzo Ball is scheduled to have surgery on his left knee later, although Donovan did not have an exact date, as Ball continues to do prehab on his knee before his procedure.

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