Saturday night, for the first time in nearly a year, Zach LaVine will suit up and play in an NBA game.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins couldn't be happier for their friend and former teammate. LaVine was part of a trio of young talent, along with Towns and Wiggins, with the Timberwolves.
But LaVine, the athletic guard, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Detroit on Feb. 3. That injury, and the ensuing surgery, ended his 2016-17 season.
Then, in a draft-day deal that brought Jimmy Butler to the Wolves, Minnesota sent LaVine and Kris Dunn to the Chicago Bulls in a deal that also included the swapping of first-round draft picks.
Now, 11-plus months later, LaVine is set to return Saturday when the Bulls play host to Detroit. In an interesting twist, it is also Zach LaVine bobblehead night.
Wiggins and Towns will be rooting him on. Wiggins went to far as to predict a 30-point night for LaVine, difficult considering he'll be on about a 20-minute limit in his first game back.
"I'm happy for him,'' Towns said after the Wolves' morning shootaround preparing for what became a 118-108 home victory over New York on Friday night. "He's been working tremendously hard to get back on the court, and anyone who knows Zach knows he's a hard worker. He itches to play the game of basketball every day."
Said Wiggins: "I know he's going to kill it. We still talk all the time. He's excited. He worked so hard to get to this point. I think he'll go out and kill it."
The Bulls took Lauri Markkanen with the No. 7 pick acquired from the Wolves, with Minnesota drafting Justin Patton at No. 16. Markkanen (15.4 points, 7.6 rebounds) has had a strong rookie season and Dunn (13.7 points, 6.3 assists) has played well. If LaVine's return proves a success, this could be a trade that worked wonders for both teams.
The two top players from the 2015 class met each other again Friday in Towns (the first overall pick) and 7-3 stretch forward Kristaps Porzingis (No. 4 overall).
Towns is averaging 20.2 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, Porzingis 23.6, 6.8 and 2.3.
Both could make their first All-Star Game appearance this season. The two have kept in touch since that draft day.
"He's done a good job of becoming the player I don't think a lot of people thought he could be coming out,'' said Towns, who recalled Knicks fans booing the pick of Porzingis at the time. "It's hard to earn the love of the fans around there, their respect. For him to do what he's done? It's a huge accomplishment."
The write stuff
The Wolves and Lynx are sponsoring a Black History Month essay contest. Open to those in the sixth through 12th grades, students are asked to submit an essay on a leader in African-American history that inspires them to be a leader today.
Winners will be chosen by Wolves guard Jamal Crawford and Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson.
"I just think it's important,'' Crawford said. "It really is. Especially in the times we're in now, to be honest with you."
Ex-Wolves forward Michael Beasley, whose NBA career seemed to be coming to an end not long ago when he went to play in China, has played well with the Knicks.
Getting extended playing time with Tim Hardaway Jr. hurt, Beasley is averaging 18.6 points per game while shooting 54.4 percent over his past 13 games. He scored 13 points Friday on 6-for-8 shooting.