Bulls, NBA cautious about coronavirus, but no major changes yet
Pandemic precautions have begun at sporting events around the world, but it was mostly business as usual for the Bulls and Cavaliers at the United Center on Tuesday.
The most significant difference was no reporters in the locker rooms, while pregame interviews were done at a podium instead of in the hallway.
"I'm a germaphobe," Bulls guard Coby White said before the first start of his NBA career. "So I'm the type to shake your hand, then go straight to the bathroom and wash them. Our trainers do a good job of giving us hand sanitizers and making sure we wash our hands and we're staying on top of everything.
"For the most part I'm going to keep my same thing. If fans want autographs, I'll sign some autographs. Probably a little more fist bumps than hand shakes, but that's about it."
The biggest concern for the NBA is if a player or coach does test positive for the coronavirus, they'd be facing a quarantine of an entire team and possibly the most recent opposing team.
"Guys are definitely aware of it," Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "We were going to breakfast this morning and there was a logjam in the bathroom at the sink, which normally doesn't happen. Guys just go straight to eat. So you can tell they're paying attention."
Among the changes announced Tuesday were cancellation of the Ivy League tournament and MAC tournament games being played without fans, just immediate family members, media and team personnel.
LaVine takes birthday off:
Zach LaVine, who celebrated his 25th birthday Tuesday, missed his fifth game with a left quad strain and is still not certain when he'll return.
"I feel good. Worked out a little bit today and just trying to find the right time to come back," LaVine said. "I don't want to push it and reinjure it, so it's going to be trying to find that nice balance. I feel good right now. Anytime within the next couple games I feel like I'll be good."
With rookie Coby White moving into the starting lineup, there seems to be a sense of urgency among fans, at least, to see White and LaVine work together as much as possible for the remainder of the season.
"It's going to be real exciting," LaVine said. "We've got a good little bit of a chemistry going, having played with each other. But obviously starting a game you've got to come out ready to go. It's a little different. Just like with anyone else you've got to figure out that chemistry and how to manage it."
Empty feeling in Hawaii:
The crowd at the United Center was about what you'd expect for Bulls-Cavs on a weeknight. But the coronavirus scare has everyone thinking about what it would be like to play NBA games with no fans in the arena.
Before the game, Bulls coach Jim Boylen told his best empty-arena story from his days as head coach at the University of Utah.
"I coached in the consolation game of the Diamond Classic in Hawaii at like 11 in the morning," Boylen said. "I think it was my wife, my two daughters and one of my assistant coach's wives behind our bench. So that's about the closest I've been to it."
The game took place on Christmas Day, 2010 and the Utes lost to a 2-10 San Diego squad.
"It was not a fun ride home," Boylen said.