The Bulls announced Thursday they will begin the 2020-21 NBA season without fans in the United Center.
"The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority, and after careful consideration in collaboration with the NBA and city and state officials, we will not be hosting fans in the United Center for the beginning of the 2020-21 NBA season," the team said in a statement. "We will continue working with the league and city and state officials to evaluate conditions to determine if there is a timeline that would allow for fans later this season."
The Illinois Department of Health Thursday reported 10,959 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide. As of Dec. 1, the city of Chicago was averaging 1,324 new cases per day over the previous seven days. Chicago is currently under a stay-at-home advisory and an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for non-essential businesses.
NBA players recently returned to home markets for COVID-19 testing and the individual workout portion of training camps, which began Tuesday. The league's first round of testing produced 48 positive results out of 546 players tested -- an 8.8 percent positivity rate.
A 134-page packet of protocols concocted by the league and distributed to teams will govern risk prevention and management in a season that will involve travel and hotel stays across markets. Some teams may choose to host a limited capacity of fans, a scenario for which the league has also distributed protocols.
"Obviously not playing with fans is going to be different for everybody that’s played in the NBA before," Zach LaVine said during his Tuesday media week press conference, adding that the Bulls would follow state regulations on the issue. "It’s always been an entertainer’s game and hopefully if we don’t have fans we can still provide that type of excitement for our fans."
The Bulls' four-game preseason slate tips off Dec. 11 against the Houston Rockets at the UC, the team's first live game action since March 10 -- a home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers the night before the 2019-20 season was suspended.