Bulls update: 2 players return from protocols, practice plan unclear

  • Bulls coach Billy Donovan -- here with Zach LaVine -- said he doesn't know when the team can practice ahead of Sunday's game with the Lakers at the United Center.

    Bulls coach Billy Donovan -- here with Zach LaVine -- said he doesn't know when the team can practice ahead of Sunday's game with the Lakers at the United Center. Associated Press

Updated 12/16/2021 3:40 PM

The next task for the Bulls seems simple enough: Get ready to play the Lakers Sunday, with no idea when they'll be able to practice.

Coach Billy Donovan provided some updates on the Bulls' situation, on the heels of having two games canceled due to too many players in health and safety protocols.


Coby White and Javonte Green, the first two players to enter protocols during this outbreak, are back and ready to play. Donovan said they are allowed to visit the Advocate Center and begin ramping up activity. A player who's been dealing with an injury, like Alex Caruso and his sore hamstring, is also allowed to visit the facility.

Other than that, it's all sort of wait and see. Donovan said DeMar DeRozan, who entered protocols Dec. 5, has not yet been cleared. The players who went into protocols last weekend -- Zach LaVine, Troy Brown Jr., Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson and Stanley Johnson -- likely won't return until after Christmas.

"Right now we're testing, as you can imagine, on a pretty regular basis," Donovan said. "The building has been pretty much closed down for just the guys that are coming back in. I think we're going to find out a lot more from the league (Thursday) as it relates to what we can do going forward with our group."

The Bulls aren't alone in dealing with this issue. Players entering health and safety protocols have been increasing around the league, but as of Thursday morning, the Bulls were the only team to have games canceled. The NBA postponed a home date against Detroit on Tuesday and Thursday's trip to Toronto.

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Ahead on the schedule are three home games in four days, beginning with the Lakers on Sunday, and followed by Houston on Monday and Toronto Wednesday. The Lakers game was switched from the afternoon to a 7 p.m. start.

When can the Bulls start practicing, so they can be prepared to play an NBA game on Sunday? That part is not really clear.

"Obviously we're going to need some sort of ramp-up period as it relates to practice," Donovan said. "I don't know what Friday and Saturday are going to look like for us. That's probably going to come down from the league, but since this happened since the Miami game we've been pretty much shutdown all the way around."

At the moment, the Bulls have 10 players available -- White, Green, Caruso, Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic, Tony Bradley, Alfonzo McKinnie and Marko Simonovic, along with two-way players Devon Dotson and Tyler Cook. There is hope DeRozan and Matt Thomas can return soon.

"Certainly we're dealing with a conditioning factor, we're dealing with a rhythm and timing situation," Donovan said. "The last probably 12 days, two weeks, its been pretty much every day we've had somebody that has been in health and safety protocol and our team has totally changed.


"I'm hopeful the league will give us some time here 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."

Donovan said the coaching staff has remained healthy. Broadcaster Stacey King revealed on Twitter that he's tested negative after a period of isolation, but is still facing some recovery. Everyone in the Bulls traveling party is thought to be fully vaccinated.

"I have zero strength right now and I'm a ways (away from) being back to my normal self but I'm blessed to have made it through this horrible disease," King wrote in a tweet.


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