Even though the Chicago Bulls had initially ruled guard Zach LaVine out of action until sometime later this week because of his left knee injury, after watching the past five games from the sidelines, LaVine had had enough.
"I got tired of just sitting at home watching," LaVine said during a video call Monday night following his return in the Bulls' 111-110 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I'm about as healthy as I can get. It just sucks sitting at home and not being able to help."
LaVine scored 23 points with 7 assists and 7 rebounds on Monday to help the Bulls pick up just their third win in the past 10 games. He had 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, and LaVine revealed Monday that he had been playing through some discomfort in his knee for weeks.
However, an MRI did not reveal any structural damage, and his knee continued to improve enough for him to join the team on Monday.
"I just didn't want to wait any longer," LaVine said. "I've been working out at home and just this is about as healthy as my knee is going to get. Obviously nothing is structurally wrong like they said. I felt fine; I just got tired of watching the games."
The Bulls welcomed one star back, however, while simultaneously resting another. DeMar DeRozan did not play against the Thunder to rest on the second night of a back-to-back after scoring a season-high 41 points on Sunday night. It was the first time DeRozan, 32, rested all season.
"With the stretch that we've had with these makeup games and so many games condensed, there would be conversations that we have," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said prior to the game. "With DeMar, physically just where he's at, he needs a break here."
LaVine returned to the court alongside guard Javonte Green, who had not played since Dec. 31 with a groin injury. While LaVine was cleared to return to his normal workload -- he played 35 minutes -- Donovan set a hard cap on Green at 25 minutes.
The Bulls have been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks, with two key members of their backcourt set to undergo surgery this week -- although a 24-point and eight-assist performance from rookie Ayo Dosunmu helped lead the Bulls to victory in Oklahoma City.
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.
"Everybody deals with it," LaVine said of the Bulls' rash of injuries. "Nobody is going to care. We just learn how to play like this. I'm happy the way these guys have been battling. That's why I wanted to come back and play and do my part as well. Like I said, I can't stand just sitting at home watching knowing I can help."