Bulls’ break offers chance to rest up, get healthier


With 10 players in health and safety protocols, and one, in Patrick Williams, sidelined indefinitely, the Chicago Bulls needed a reset.

On Monday, the NBA granted one by postponing games this week against the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors.

The big picture of this pause is unfortunate because of the health implications for players and staff, and the potential for the momentum of the team's 17-10 start to be stymied.

However, being static until Dec. 19 offers a couple opportunities for this shorthanded group.

For one, the seven-day break provides a chance to get healthier. The Bulls next play on Sunday, Dec. 19 – at home, against the Los Angeles Lakers (now at 7 p.m. CT to allow time for additional COVID-19 testing).

NBA rules dictate that players in protocols must remain there for 10 days, or until one can return two negative PCR tests within a 24-hour span. Then, after passing league-sanctioned cardiac screening, they can be cleared to play.

By Dec. 19, five Bulls players currently in health and safety protocols will have passed the 10-day mark of their stay: Coby White, Javonte Green, DeMar DeRozan, Matt Thomas and Derrick Jones Jr. White and Green, in fact, have already passed 10 days in protocols. DeRozan will hit his 10-day mark on Dec. 15, Thomas on Dec. 17 and Jones Jr. on Dec. 18.


Does that mean all five of those players will be available to play against the Lakers? Not necessarily. Each will still need to pass cardiac screening before being cleared, and the Bulls will need to ramp up each of their conditioning to game shape.

But it at least offers a baseline for when their window to be eligible to return opens. DeRozan is the NBA's sixth-leading scorer, Green has been starting for the Bulls at power forward, and Jones Jr. and White are rotation regulars. Returns for any of them would be welcome.

Barring additional protocol entries – which can’t be ruled out – here is what the rest of the team’s 10-day timeline looks like:


Day entered protocols

10-day mark

Coby White

Dec. 1

Dec. 10

Javonte Green

Dec. 3

Dec. 12

DeMar DeRozan

Dec. 6

Dec. 15

Matt Thomas

Dec. 8

Dec. 17

Derrick Jones Jr.

Dec. 9

Dec. 18

Ayo Dosunmu

Dec. 11

Dec. 20

Stanley Johnson

Dec. 11

Dec. 20

Zach LaVine

Dec. 12

Dec. 21

Troy Brown Jr.

Dec. 12

Dec. 21

Alize Johnson

Dec. 13

Dec. 22

Even for players not in protocols, the Bulls’ week-long break may pay dividends.

Alex Caruso, remember, has been nursing a hamstring strain since the team’s victory over the Knicks on Dec. 2. He played eight minutes in their next game – a victory over the Nets on Dec. 4 – before being pulled by the Bulls’ medical staff, then sat out their Dec. 6 win over the Nuggets and Dec. 8 loss to the Cavaliers. 

Caruso returned to play 27 minutes Dec. 11 against the Heat, but didn’t look 100 percent his wrecking-ball self. Perhaps by Dec. 19, with the benefit of additional rest and recovery, he will be – or, at the very least, closer.

There’s also the wear and tear on uninjured/non-protocols players to consider. In five games since Dec. 1, when White entered protocols, Lonzo Ball, for example, averaged 38.5 minutes – nearly four more than his average of 34.8 through the end of November. After playing 34 minutes against the Knicks, Ball played 40, 40, 39 and 40 minutes, respectively, in the Bulls’ next four contests.

Nikola Vučević, too, has played at least 34 minutes in every December game, save the blowout loss in Cleveland. Zach LaVine averaged 36.8 minutes in five December games before entering protocols on Sunday.

None of those minute loads are completely beyond the pale, especially considering they took place over a relatively small sample size of five contests. But the strain on the eight remaining Bulls – four of whom, in Devon Dotson, Tyler Cook, Marko Simonović and Alfonzo McKinnie, have spent most of 2021-22 in the G League – would have only increased had the Pistons and Raptors games not been postponed. And the season is still young.

No team desires a COVID-19 outbreak. In a number of different facets, the last two weeks have presented tremendous adversity to the team and organization at large. And even when their schedule resumes, the Bulls won't be fully operational.

But with a reset, they hope to get back to something close to normal soon.


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