Coby White had a low-grade fever, headache and experienced congestion. DeMar DeRozan said he felt “completely fine.”
But speaking to reporters over Zoom after a Saturday afternoon practice session, the two Chicago Bulls, who are now fully returned from bouts with COVID-19, reported one similarity between their recent stays in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
“Only symptom I had was boredom, honestly,” said DeRozan.
“Boredom was the main thing for me,” White added when asked about the most frustrating aspect of his time in protocols. “I’m not a type of dude that just sits down.”
White and DeRozan’s mild or asymptomatic protocol experiences point to the Bulls fully-vaccinated status, but also to the frustration that any competitor would feel after an extended stint on the shelf – especially given that an eventual COVID-19 outbreak within the team led to two game postponements and the pause of a 17-10 start to the season.
“This whole thing going on, not just in sports, but the world in general, it’s just one of those things where it’s frustrating,” DeRozan said. “Most of the guys in our league try and follow the necessary precautions that we needed to take by getting vaccinated so we can be out there, take care of our health, and just be out there and play. That was a big thing for us, just to be out on that floor.
“For guys to be vaccinated, dealing with this, getting hit hard, it’s just frustrating. It’s just another thing that you try and do everything to avoid missing any games, or even contracting COVID, and it still comes around. That’s the frustrating part.”
White, on Dec. 1, was the team’s first player of the outbreak to enter protocols, but said he wasn’t surprised, given that he was mildly symptomatic.
“I knew I had it, so it wasn’t no getting around it,” he said. “I knew I was going to do my 10-11 days (in protocols).”
Those symptoms faded within two or three days. All told, he said his level of sickness didn’t reach a case of strep throat he endured in high school.
DeRozan, meanwhile, registered his positive test on Dec. 6, making him the third of 10 Bulls to eventually enter protocols between Dec. 1 and 13. He received the news via phone call just after his pregame nap in advance of a home matchup with the Denver Nuggets, which the Bulls eventually won 109-97.
“It was crazy because we got back from Brooklyn (where the Bulls beat the Nets 111-107 on Dec. 4), we had the next day off. I was just relaxing, normal day,” DeRozan said. “Monday (Dec. 6), had shootaround, did shootaround, went home and took my nap, getting ready to wake up for my normal routine. I'm literally about to get up from my nap, get ready to go to the game and I got the call right before the game.
“It was one of those things, mixture of everything. Frustration of not being able to go out there and play, trying to figure out why I don't feel nothing, nothing's wrong, how long I'm going to be out. Just a mixture of a lot of emotions. But at the end of the day, I just was like, ‘I've got to deal with it, something I've got to deal with,’ and went from there.”
From there, DeRozan passed the time by watching every basketball game he could and staying loose with at-home exercises ranging from stretching to push-ups to jump-roping.
“Whatever I could physically just to keep the blood flowing, keep the body moving,” he said. “By the same token, it was good for me to heal a lot of nagging injuries, pains that I had throughout the season thus far. That was a positive I took from it as well.”
White, who has now missed 18 games this season between his time in protocols (five) and rehabbing an offseason labrum tear (13), used the time to grow, personally.
“It ain’t nothing I never seen before,” White said of the personal frustration his third NBA season has elicited thus far. “I’m cool. It is what it is, for me. I just used that time to grow as a person. I’m a big spiritual guy, so just use that time to kind of grow my faith. God got a plan for everybody. He’s going to take care of everything. I put my trust in that.”
And as the Bulls’ protocol entries swelled by the day, White said the team kept the mood light by trading jokes in a group text thread.
“Nobody was like, ‘Man, this is B.S.’ We were all just like making jokes,” he said. “We don’t have those type of personalities where dudes were upset or angry. Our group is funny, goofy.”
Soon, some of that group resumes action with a Sunday night matchup against the Lakers in Chicago. White and DeRozan will be available, as will presumptive starting power forward Javonte Green, while Derrick Jones Jr., who on Saturday became the fourth Bull to exit protocols this week, is questionable as he ramps his conditioning up to game-readiness. Matt Thomas, who remains in protocols but doesn’t appear far behind Jones Jr., is doubtful for the game.
With players rejoining the fray, and acclimating on the fly, it was a good day for the team to be cleared for a group activities for the first time since last Saturday’s loss to the Miami Heat – to which they responded with a competitive hour-and-a-half practice. Beforehand, White, Green and DeRozan were limited to individual work.
“I’m feeling pretty solid,” White said of his conditioning. “Obviously I was gassed here and there. But it was good to get up and down again after 14 or 15 days.”
“Physically, conditioning-wise I feel like I’ll be fine,” DeRozan said. “The last couple days (I’ve been) just pushing myself as much as I can in the gym. Come back to the gym at night, morning time, just getting my rhythm, getting my wind up. [Saturday] was a good day of practice, so I’m confident that I’ll be fine.’’
DeRozan, White, Green, Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vučević, Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Marko Simonović, Alfonzo McKinnie, Devon Dotson and Tyler Cook make 11 available Bulls players for Sunday. Jones Jr. would make 12 if he is cleared tomorrow. (Stanley Johnson’s 10-day contract has expired.)
It’s a start. As head coach Billy Donovan noted Thursday, don’t expect the team to be fully staffed until after Christmas.
But for the time being, White said the Bulls will continue to rally around the resilience they’ve taken pride in all season.
“We have that next-man-up mentality,” White said. “Adversity is going to hit. It’s only going to make you better or it’s going to make you worse. I honestly think with our team and our personnel it’s going to make us stronger. We’re not panicking or anything. We’re going to take it one day at a time and focus on the Lakers tomorrow.”