CHICAGO – It’s been almost a week since they took the court for a game, but it’s been a while since they were able to just take the floor for practice.
That’s what a rash of COVID-19 cases has done to the Bulls over the past two weeks as they were forced to postpone not only a pair of games but pause practices as well. This came after ten players along with a few on the team’s staff were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol for the virus.
It’s made for quite an unusual stretch for Billy Donovan, who has stayed in contact with all of his players as the Bulls’ team facility was mostly closed after their contest with the Pistons Tuesday and their game in Toronto against the Raptors was called off.
The head coach said no members of his coaching staff have tested positive, which is good news, but the only players to return to the protocol so far are guards Coby White and Javonte Green. Each was able to get some work at team facilities along with those dealing with injuries, but that was it for training this week.
If those two players can go, Green and White will join those players who’ve not tested positive against the Lakers on Sunday night at the United Center when the Bulls are supposed to take the floor again.
“I think with all the testing that we’re doing, you hope and pray that we’re on the back end and maybe not the middle of it,” said Donovan of the team’s COVID-19 issues.
Still, it could be while before the team is whole again since eighth other players currently remain in the protocol. Donovan said that DeMar DeRozan and Matt Thomas remain day-to-day along with other players who went into the protocol early, but others will be longer.
The coach said on Thursday that Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., and Alize Johnson may not return until after the Christmas holiday. Derrick Jones Jr. and Stanley Johnson also remain in the protocol as Sunday’s game approaches.
As Green and White ramp up their activity, Donovan hopes to get more clarity on what the Bulls will be allowed to do from a practice perspective to get ready to resume their season against the Lakers.
“Certainly we’re dealing with a conditioning factor, we’re dealing with a rhythm and timing situation,” said Donovan. “We’re dealing with our team, really the last, probably, 12 days, two weeks, it’s been pretty much every day we’ve had somebody that has been in health and safety protocols and our team has totally changed.
“I’m hopeful the league will give us some time here on Friday and Saturday to get the group back together that would be available to play on Sunday, but we really haven’t been able to do much at all.”
That’s not a bad thing for a few players who’ve been dealing with injuries or have shouldered heavy playing time with the roster depleted. Guard Alex Caruso, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, came out of the Bulls’ last game against the Heat Saturday without pain according to Donovan and got more rest this week.
“Hopefully it gives those guys an opportunity to get their bodies a chance to recover,” said Donovan. “So if there is a blessing, that part of it is good for some of those guys, one that we’re absorbing a lot of minutes or guys that were dealing with some ailing things that they needed to get treated.”