Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine had surgery Tuesday to repair the torn ACL in his left knee, an injury he sustained Feb. 3 against Detroit.
That much is a fact. That much we know.
Everything else about LaVine and the Timberwolves seems to be a sentence punctuated by a question mark instead of a period. It was already trending that way this season; the injury added to that sentiment. Let's dive into two of the biggest questions:
• What kind of recovery can LaVine expect? This is an important question in the context of the future for the Wolves. While torn anterior cruciate ligaments used to be somewhat rare in the NBA, they are now far more commonplace. Several notable players have come back from the injury; perhaps teammate Ricky Rubio's ACL injury in March of 2012 is a good comparison.
Rubio, like LaVine, was 21 when he tore his ACL. he had surgery on March 21, 2012. Rubio made his 2012-13 season debut on Dec. 15, 2012 — a little less than nine months after surgery. On that timeline, LaVine could make it back near the start of next season. But it's also important to note that Rubio came off the bench for the first 10 games he was back and missed five more. He didn't really look like "himself" until at least early February.
Translation: the Wolves don't know what they can count on from LaVine next season. They will know more about what to expect from LaVine as the season approaches, but by then most of their roster already will be set.
• How is LaVine viewed inside and outside of the Wolves' organization? This is a more interesting question, and one that existed before the injury.
On one hand, the Wolves have been branding LaVine as part of a young "Big Three" along with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. LaVine was in the midst of a very productive third season — a legitimate scoring threat at the rim and from behind the three-point line. But LaVine struggles defensively and has the worst plus-minus on the Wolves by a significant amount.
He's well-liked by fans and does some great things off the court, but there also didn't seem to be the same mourning period for LaVine that existed when Rubio went down with his ACL injury five years ago. If there are clearly defined feelings about Towns and Wiggins, they seem less clear with LaVine.
As a result, LaVine's name has been a natural one to include in trade speculation. He would have been a logical piece in a draft day deal for Jimmy Butler last June, when the Wolves were reportedly willing to give up anyone but Towns or Wiggins.
The injury would seem to put a damper on that kind of talk, at least in the short-term. In that regard, the Wolves are stuck with the worst of both worlds — likely unable to use LaVine as a trade piece if they were inclined to do so while also being denied the ability to further gauge where he fits into future plans.
LaVine's unfortunate injury is more than just an individual woe. It's an organizational setback that adds to a growing list of questions. Many of the answers won't be easy or immediately apparent.