With games postponed, maybe Bulls will benefit from extra rest
Is there a silver lining to the Bulls losing so many players to health and safety protocols?
Well, they've been given sort of an early all-star break, as the NBA postponed their next two games -- a home date with Detroit on Tuesday and visit to Toronto on Thursday.
A 10th player, forward Alize Johnson, entered protocols Monday morning. This process began on Dec. 1 when Coby White was sidelined, and continued with a trickle until this weekend, when five players in three days joined protocols.
The Bulls were facing the prospect of playing the Pistons with nine players available -- Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Alfonzo McKinnie, Tony Bradley, Devon Dotson, Tyler Cook and Marko Simonovic. There was hope White would be cleared to play. A visit to Toronto, which obviously involves crossing the border into Canada, posed other problems.
"If you're going to play games, you don't want to be at a point where it's just competitive disadvantage, when you can't have shootarounds, can't have practice," coach Billy Donovan said in Miami.
If nothing else changes, the Bulls will be off until hosting the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon at the United Center, followed by another home game the next day against Houston.
DeMar DeRozan, 32, entered protocols on Dec. 5. If he's available to play against the Lakers he will have what amounted to a two-week vacation with no injury to rehab. Throw in the actual all-star break in February and maybe DeRozan will be feeling good in April, when the Bulls hope to be playing their first postseason games since 2017.
Given the typical 10-day waiting period, Zach LaVine will likely not be available to play against the Lakers or Rockets, since he entered protocols Sunday.
The NBA doesn't reveal this information, but it's reasonable to assume players enter health and safety protocols after a positive COVID test. Donovan said Saturday none of the Bulls have experienced anything more than mild symptoms, and some have had no symptoms.
One theory behind why the Bulls have had so many players entering protocols is with every player on the team vaccinated, they don't have to go through frequent testing. That is, unless someone on the team tests positive, then everyone is tested up to twice daily. More tests mean greater chance of a positive result.
Donovan mentioned the Bulls had to be tested at 11 o'clock at night, then 7 a.m. the next morning in order to hold a practice in Miami on Friday. Vucevic, who missed seven games after a positive test in November, said he would never had suspected he had COVID if not for the required test.
This run of players entering protocols began with White two days after the Bulls played the Charlotte Hornets, a team that had five players sidelined around the same time.
The Bulls' last three opponents have not had any players enter protocols since facing the Bulls. One exception is Miami broadcaster Jason Jackson, who joined protocols Monday. Bulls announcers, Stacey King and Bill Wennington already were sidelined.
The Brooklyn Nets, who played the Bulls on Dec. 4, had forward Paul Millsap enter protocols Monday.
One issue now is the NBA schedule was not set up to add makeup games. These are the first two contests postponed by the NBA this season. One possibility that could make sense is to move these games to both ends of the all-star break on Feb. 17 and 23.