Markkanen feels fortunate to dodge COVID in DC

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) returned to practice Tuesday after missing seven games while completing a quarantine period due to COVID-19 protocols.

    Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) returned to practice Tuesday after missing seven games while completing a quarantine period due to COVID-19 protocols. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/12/2021 8:36 PM

Before halftime of the Bulls-Wizards game on Dec. 31, Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono and Tomas Satoransky were in a van, with a hired driver, on the road for an overnight trip back to Chicago.

All three players were deemed to have had close contact with teammate Chandler Hutchison after he tested positive for COVID-19.

 

Somewhere between Pittsburgh and Toledo, the players rang in the New Year.

"It was a lot of fun, celebrating our New Year's together," Arcidiacono said. "We all had our masks for as much as we could during that time. There was plexiglass in between (the driver).

Markkanen and Arcidiacono return to practice Tuesday at the Advocate Center after missing seven games. But Satoransky later tested positive for COVID, so he remains out. Hutchison stayed in Washington and had a few rough days with the disease, according to coach Billy Donovan, but returned to Chicago over the weekend and is feeling better.

But it's a strange situation, since the three of them shared a roughly 11-hour ride in the same van, then Satoransky tested positive and the other two did not.

"I was just waiting for the phone call after Sato tested positive," Markkanen said. "But I was lucky enough not to get it. We can't control that, so I'm not wasting my energy and time worrying about getting tested every single morning and what we have to go through. I just try to focus on the good stuff and play a game."

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There was no game Tuesday, since the scheduled contest against Boston was canceled because the Celtics didn't have enough players available. But the Bulls got some extra practice time for Markkanen and Arcidiacono to get back in the swing of things by Friday when the Bulls are supposed to play in Oklahoma City.

It will be interesting to see how Markkanen fits back into the lineup. He's off to a good start this season, averaging 17.3 points while shooting 48 percent from 3-point range.

The Bulls' offense has been clicking, despite the 4-7 record. Over the last five games, Zach LaVine is averaging 34.4 points and the Bulls scored 119 as a team. But they were down a scorer at the end of the West Coast road trip when Otto Porter went out with a back injury.

"I don't feel like the timing is exactly there and rhythm," Markkanen said after his first practice in about two weeks. "I was able to get some shots up when guys were out west, but nothing like your legs getting tired during the game and shooting with that. It was good to get a full practice in, so I already feel a lot better than I did before."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls didn't have an official practice Monday, but Markkanen said a few guys visited the Advocate Center so the two players back from quarantine could get some basketball competition.

COVID issues are on the rise in the NBA, with two more games postponed on Wednesday. Looking back on what happened in Washington, Arcidiacono said he couldn't identify any mistakes.

"I think it's just wrong place, wrong time, unlucky," Arcidiacono said. "Hutch is one of my best friends on the team, so clearly at a dinner, we were going to be able to sit with each other and stuff. You just never know. It could have been anyone else. Unfortunately, it was me. But you know what, just kind of take it on the chin and be able to move on."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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