CHICAGO – They were the first in Chicago to have their season put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they’ll be the last to get things started.
On March 10th, 288 days ago, the Bulls beat the Cavaliers at the United Center when the idea of not playing in front of fans seemed like the most dramatic option as the virus spread. Less than 24 hours after they walked on the court, the season was suspended after Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz tested positive for COVID-19.
Since they didn’t qualify for the Orlando “Bubble” season, the Bulls were left only with practices in the fall. Their first games since that March night came in four preseason contests in December.
Oh, bye the way, the team also completely changed their front office, putting in Arturas Karnisovas as president and Marc Eversley as general manager, while also hiring Billy Donovan as a new coach. While most of the players are the same, it has the feel of the start of a new era for the franchise, which will come in a most bizarre season for the Bulls and their NBA counterparts.
But on Wednesday, at last, a regular season game has arrived for the Bulls in the same place their season left off over nine months ago.
The Bulls take the floor at the United Center Wednesday to face the Hawks, the first of 72 games during this slightly shortened season that will test everyone involved. Tight COVID-19 protocols will make everything from practice to travel different for the team and will leave fans out of the equation for a healthy portion of the season.
They’ll play the first three games of the season at home as they host the Pacers on Saturday and then the Warriors on Sunday before hitting the road next week. While there is a lot of unknown about what’s to come, including from the Bulls’ own performance with essentially the same team back, there is an excitement for the start of the new era.
That comes from Donovan, too, who is starting his fourth head coaching job of his career on Wednesday night.
“I’m excited to be coaching, I’m excited to be here in Chicago. The people here our wonderful, the city has been great,” said Donovan. “I’ve really enjoyed the guys, they’ve worked hard. They’re a really, really great group of guys. There is a lot of growth that needs to take place, both as individuals as team.”
That process, finally, is going to get started tonight.