(CBS Chicago) — As February turned to March, Zach LaVine’s season veered off-course, and the Bulls’ season veered off-course further. A strained quadriceps had pushed the shooting guard out of the lineup. The injury seemed to be day-to-day. Though with the Bulls sitting at 20-40 and in the hunt for a lottery pick, there was no rush. He would end up missing five games. Now with the all-consuming coronavirus pandemic, he may never have the chance to put his season back on track.
On March 11, an off-day before the Bulls faced the Orlando Magic on the road, LaVine still seemed unlikely to return. The following Saturday against the Heat in Miami seemed like a possibility though. Then the NBA suspended the regular season. No timetable exists for its resumption or the playoffs.
Before his latest injury, LaVine had been having a strong, healthy season. In 60 games, he was averaging 25.5 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent shooting from beyond the arc, along with 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Every one of those stats were an improvement on his career numbers. For the foreseeable future, he’ll have to direct this energy in another direction.
Now March is about to become April, and the NBA regular season seems like a distant memory. Any basketball to be played will likely be postseason and likely won’t include the Bulls. LaVine has returned to the Seattle area, where he’s from and where he can be with family. As he recounted in a recent interview with the team’s website, “When I got back to Seattle, I wanted to do be able to do something for my hometown. Jamal Crawford is one of my mentors, one of the best people you can meet. We talked about things and he’s kind of the mastermind behind everything because he is so big in the Seattle community.”
He partnered with Crawford’s organization and Feeding America, a network of food banks across the country. In LaVine’s telling, “we donated 13,000 meals. We’re doing some more things and we’re starting to do things in Chicago as well, for people working in the hospitals, the nurses and doctors and health care professionals who are helping us. I’m finding the best way to go about it. There are so many different people being affected by this that you want to make sure it goes to the right places.”
LaVine revealed the donation in a Tweet at the time:
I want to do my part and help my communities as much as I can during this difficult time. I’m starting off by committing 12,500 meals to the city of Seattle with @FeedingAmerica. As you know, I grew up here in Seattle and will always be #seattlestrong
— Zach LaVine (@ZachLaVine) March 21, 2020
With every sports league that would otherwise be in season now on hiatus, athletes have had a chance to step back from competition and step up in service of a community in peril. Washington state was among the hardest hit areas at the time and remains that way, even as the crisis intensifies in New York.
Other Chicago-area athletes are contributing in this time of crisis. Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo sent hundreds of meals to healthcare workers at Lurie Children’s in Streeterville and Illinois Masonic in Lakeview. These Chicago nurses and doctors are working around the clock to fight COVID-19. Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward pledged $200,000 to Chicago coronavirus relief. And the Chicago Bears donated $250,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund.
What else LaVine is doing with his time off? Well, seemingly a little bit of everything. “I just moved into this house last summer. So I didn’t have much furniture, pictures,” LaVine pointed out. “So I’m looking around and saying I can decorate my house a little bit. Getting things out of boxes, unpacking the house. But that got old pretty fast.”
And what else? “I play a lot of video games and obviously the big thing now is people are getting into the video game community. I’m starting to do that as well,” LaVine continued. “Me and my girlfriend play dominoes and board games. I work out. I play with my dog in my backyard.”
In other words, LaVine is doing what a lot of us are doing until it’s safe to resume life as usual. Let’s hope that’s sooner than later.