Bad news continues for Bulls as LaVine, Brown enter protocols
As they say, things can always get worse.
On the heels of a 26-point loss to Miami on Saturday, both Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr. entered health and safety protocols, a team source confirmed. This is LaVine's second time sidelined by protocols; it also happened late last season.
The Bulls' next scheduled game is Tuesday against Detroit at the United Center. So far, there's been no indication the NBA will cancel games if a team has at least eight players available. At the moment, the Bulls have nine players and there is optimism Coby White is ready to return from 10 days spent in health and safety protocols.
Besides White, the available players are Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Alize Johnson, Alfonzo McKinnie, Devon Dotson, Tyler Cook and Marko Simonovic. Of course, that could change at any moment.
Before Saturday's game, coach Billy Donovan said none of the affected players have experienced significant symptoms and some players haven't had any. The Bulls are thought to be fully vaccinated.
What's been strange about this episode is it happened so slowly. Two days after playing Charlotte, another team that has experienced an outbreak, White entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 1. After a game in New York the next day, Javonte Green followed White into protocols, so Green could also be ready to return soon.
The Bulls won two games in New York that weekend, then leading scorer DeMar DeRozan was added to the list on Dec. 5. After beating Denver, Matt Thomas entered protocols. Following a game in Cleveland, Derrick Jones Jr. was sidelined.
At that point, the Bulls were granted hardship roster exceptions by the league and signed Stanley Johnson and McKinnie to 10-day contracts. But during their three days in Miami, Johnson and Ayo Dosunmu entered protocols. Now LaVine and Brown bring the total to nine players sidelined over the course of 12 days.
In addition, team broadcasters Stacey King and Bill Wennington have been knocked off the air by this outbreak.
Vucevic entered protocols in November after a positive COVID test and missed seven games, but no other player on the Bulls roster tested positive during that stretch. After the Miami game, Vucevic discussed the situation.
"I don't want to say something and start a crazy conspiracy or something, but we're all vaccinated, most of us got boosters," Vucevic said. "I didn't get a booster yet because I just had it, so I'm like in the best position, for 60 or 90 days I'm clear of everything. I'm like the safest guy to be around."
There are plenty of questions worth raising here. Should the league postpone some Bulls games? They have just two contests scheduled for this week -- Detroit at home, followed by at Toronto on Thursday -- but trying to jam games into the schedule later in the season is a challenge. There are no doubleheaders in basketball.
Is the NBA being too cautious? Should a vaccinated player experiencing no symptoms be required to sit out 10 days? There are no easy answers, obviously. The league has been studying this problem for roughly 22 months, since long before the Orlando bubble of 2020.
"For me, for example, if I never tested I would never known I was positive because I didn't really have any symptoms," Vucevic said. "I had a little cold and if it wasn't for COVID, I wouldn't have thought anything more about it. I don't know, it is the way it is and just have to deal with it.
"Can't do anything about it and it just stinks that when you get it, you have to be out 10 days and there's nothing you can do about it and guys have to work their way back. Our only hope is nobody else pops up positive."
Well, that wish is already out the window, since LaVine and Brown entered protocols after Vucevic made that statement.
The same problem struck the G-League's Windy City Bulls. Home games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Hoffman Estates were postponed because Windy City didn't have enough players available. A team source said there are players and staff members in health and safety protocols, but couldn't give a precise number.