This time last week, the Bulls were sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference and carrying on with their schedule despite having five players in health and safety protocol. The number of players in protocol doubled this week, and the Bulls became the first team in the league to have games postponed for a Covid outbreak.
Ten players with positive tests. Ten! Covid even sidelined an announcer (Stacey King), and the backup announcer (Bill Wennington). Stanley Johnson signed via the Hardship Exemption on Thursday and was in protocol by Saturday before he ever played a game.
Thankfully the NBA made the right call to postpone Tuesday’s game against the Pistons and Thursday’s game against the Raptors, but this very much still felt like a shit week. I’ll let Zach take the first word here.
Fuck COVID foreal— Zach LaVine (@ZachLaVine) April 13, 2020
Please notice the date on that tweet. It’s from April 2020 aka last season aka the first time Zach tested positive for Covid. While regular nerds like us feel inconvenienced by not being able to watch the Bulls this week, imagine how Zach must feel.
A year ago, our dude had never even won four games in a row before. In the time since, he captured an Olympic gold medal (earning a somewhat surprising spot on the team), saw the Bulls bolster the roster around him with veteran signings, left his agency to join Klutch Sports in anticipation of a max contract extension, and then sees the Bulls rise to the top of the East.
Now he’s back in protocol with the rest of his teammates wondering when the hell this squad will get out of this.
The thing is that this shit sucks for everyone. This was an extremely hard week to read the news and keep up with friends. A couple of my close friends in Chicago tested positive. My buddy in New York has it. My cousin’s two kids under five both have it. My uncle in his 60s got it (and thankfully cleared it). All of these people have been careful since the pandemic started, but fuck, we’re 21 months into it and at this point contracting the virus almost feels inevitable.
If you felt like you were cracking mentally this week, I don’t blame you and I can relate more than a little.
A few days ago, I published a piece urging the NBA to take a break for the 10 days leading up to Christmas. The league was never going to do that, of course. The main objective of this season has always seemed like getting the schedule back on its normal track, which sounds fine and good until you realize the pandemic is very much still here. The alternative is letting the Bulls pass the virus to whoever they play (the Nets and Knicks both had outbreaks this week), and letting those teams pass the virus to whoever they play.
As always, I’m still more concerned about the regular ass people these players are interacting with on a daily basis — family, friends, team employees, stadium workers — who aren’t ultra physically fit young people.
How far is the league willing to go to get in all 82 games? Vooch has an idea.
There’s nothing funny about a pandemic that has killed more than five million people around the world, but we’re long past the point where humor has become a defense mechanism after so much depressing shit.
Let’s lighten the mood a little bit.
Jasmine shoots better than DeRozan in the clutch. Also the jersey patch is what really gets me on this one.
Not Cuppy Coffee!!!
No words, they gotta postpone the race now pic.twitter.com/tGRTLeT8wo— Jay Vegas (@JVegas01) December 17, 2021
Let’s get a Knicks joke in here.
That’s more like it.
I fear we’re going to look back at this week as a pivotal moment regardless of how this Bulls season ends. If the Bulls pick up where they left off and keep winning, the story will be that they overcame an outbreak to continue this charmed campaign. If anyone’s individual play slips significantly coming out of protocol, we’ll say Covid ruined the season.
The pandemic was always going to be a huge variable this year, and the Bulls have now been hit harder by it than any team in the league. Everything (still) sucks. Please take care of yourself and your people.
Bulls protocol update
Here’s the latest on the players in protocol.
Bulls protocol rundown from Billy Donovan's presser today:— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) December 16, 2021
• Coby/Javonte out of protocols, going thru cardiac screening/conditioning ramp-up. Coby farther along than Javonte
• DeMar/Thomas are "day-to-day to find out more"
• Zach/Ayo/Alize/TBJ likely out until after XMas
Man, it’s still going to be a while before the full squad is back. [/In my best ‘this shit sucks’ voice] This shit sucks.
Meanwhile, the next game on the schedule is home against the Lakers on Sunday. The Lakers have their own outbreak going on right now with five players in protocol as of yesterday. Fortunately the NBA did the smart thing and .... pushed the game back a few hours.
The NBA is giving the Bulls an extra 4 hours to recover from a COVID outbreak how thoughtful https://t.co/VB8aHNt54e— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) December 14, 2021
Is this game actually getting played? There’s a clear motivation from the league’s perspective to keep the schedule moving. We’ll see.
DeMar and Zach are money in the clutch
One of the big storylines of this season has been how great DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine have been in fourth quarters.
I know this. You know this. Anyone paying attention knows this. It’s still nice to see the numbers back it up (via Synergy Sports).
Lonzo and AC are the Zach and DeMar of defense
/Tony Allen voice: “FIRST TEAM ALL-DEFENSE.”
From that LEBRON database page you can also see our current estimates of All-Star Teams and All-Defense teams based on impact thus far.— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) December 14, 2021
For example, here's our current calculated 1st Team All-Defense:
G: Lonzo Ball
G: Alex Caruso
F: Draymond Green
F: Evan Mobley
C: Rudy Gobert https://t.co/RTBfR0gIkl
I really need Caruso to bring back this classic.
Let’s end on some positivity
Well at least we’ll have herd immunity for the rest of the season… https://t.co/XrmBH0OMxW— Nikola Vucevic (@NikolaVucevic) December 12, 2021
DeMar DeRozan’s latest Instagram story.— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) December 17, 2021
Our boy almost back? pic.twitter.com/i1BJEcfeYx
let’s make Year Three of Covid the best one yet!!— Miles Klee (@MilesKlee) December 7, 2021
Not sure if that last one had the intended effect.
Stay safe, everyone.