The Bulls probably shouldn’t have played against the Heat on Saturday due to their COVID-19 outbreak (the Cavs game was honestly questionable as well), but it seemed as if the NBA was going to plow ahead for this week’s games even as more players hit health and safety protocols, and even as the Windy City Bulls had games postponed. Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr. entered the protocols after the Bulls got smoked by the Heat, and NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reported Sunday night that Chicago’s appeals to the NBA for postponements were falling on deaf ears.
Alize Johnson testing positive for COVID brought the list to 10 players in protocols (plus Stacey King and Bill Wennington!) on Monday, leaving the Bulls with eight available players (the minimum) for Tuesday against the Pistons. There were rumblings that Coby White and Javonte Green could potentially be available for Tuesday’s game, but the NBA FINALLY just did the right thing and put Chicago’s season on pause by postponing the Pistons game and Thursday’s game in Toronto against the Raptors:
In quite the little coincidence, this announcement came shortly after the Blackhawks had their Monday night home game against the Flames postponed because of Calgary’s own outbreak. While the Bulls technically had those minimum eight players available at the time of the postponements, it would have been ridiculous and a total competitive disadvantage to play, plus there’s that whole thing about trying to stop the COVID spread. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Chicago Department of Public Health recommended postponements, and the NBA took this into consideration.
Here’s the list of eight players not in protocols at the moment: Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso (just back from a hamstring injury), Tony Bradley, Marko Simonovic (a rookie who apparently can’t play, Devon Dotson (two-way), Tyler Cook (two-way), Alfonzo McKinnie (just played 29 minutes off the street). Even if White and Green were back, they’d be coming back from COVID with no real practice time. The Bulls’ Monday practice was canceled.
The Bulls now get a chance to reset for a few days and hopefully get some guys back. The next scheduled game is on Sunday against the Lakers at the United Center. While it’s unclear as of now if that game will be played, my guess is it will be. Moving past White and Green, DeMar DeRozan entered protocols on Dec. 6. Then came Matt Thomas (Dec. 8), Derrick Jones Jr. (Dec. 9), Ayo Dosunmu and Stanley Johnson (Dec. 11), LaVine and Brown (Dec. 12), and then Alize Johnson (Dec. 13) as the final one ... for now. Vucevic already tested positive earlier this season. All these players must miss at least 10 days or register two negative tests in a 24-hour period.
Let’s hope the Bulls are done with this outbreak and they can get back to having a semi-normal season in the near future, because this has been a really unfortunate setback during a fun start to the season.