Nikola Vučević is back.
The Chicago Bulls listed their All-Star center as available on the injury report for Wednesday's matchup with the Rockets, indicating he will make his return from a seven-game, COVID-19 induced absence.
"He's going to definitely be on a minute restriction," head coach Billy Donovan said pregame. "I think the challenge is — one, certainly he's not gonna be able to play the number of minutes continuous that he did before he got COVID, right? So his stints become a little bit shorter. We just don't want him resting for 12 straight minutes before he comes back, because now you're not helping him get his conditioning back.
"He's had some build-up, passing all these protocols, but he's clearly not in the shape he was in. And I wouldn't expect him to be. But we gotta help him get there."
Vučević tested positive for the virus on Nov. 11. After producing two negative PCR tests in a 24-hour window, head coach Billy Donovan told reporters on Sunday (Nov. 21) that Vučević had rejoined the team, but was awaiting medical clearance from cardiovascular testing to return to game action.
Evidently, he has now received that. The Bulls went 4-3 in his absence, but badly missed his floor-spacing, facilitating and rebounding from the five-spot, even considering the early-season shooting slump he was mired in before being sidelined.
“He’s one of the main pieces of our team,” Zach LaVine recently said. “It’ll be great to have some size back, get our All-Star big man back. He’ll help everything out.”
Alex Caruso, who missed Monday's blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers with a left wrist contusion, was also listed on the team's injury report as available.
Caruso entered the Bulls' starting lineup during Vučević's absence (with Tony Bradley starting at center), but Billy Donovan was non-committal when asked in Portland whether that change would be a permanent one. Keep an eye out for that announcement, and how Caruso and Vučević reacclimate, against Houston.