The Bulls will play the back-end of their two-game road series against the Washington Wizards without four players: Lauri Markkanen, Tomáš Satoranský, Chandler Hutchison and Ryan Arcidiacono.
According to head coach Billy Donovan, all four are currently in the NBA's health and safety protocols.
That could mean a number of things. Any of the four could have returned a positive or inconclusive COVID-19 test result. They also may have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive. That's how -- for example -- Satoranský landed in a nine-day quarantine period during the preseason, after he and Noah Vonleh, who tested positive some time after the team's first preseason game, were in close contact with one another.
"Every day I went to test and it was all negative, but you really don’t know," Satoranský said upon his return to practice on Dec. 22. "You don’t need to have symptoms, so that’s probably the toughest part."
Donovan said he and his staff plan to hammer out a rotation plan based on the absences before tip.
"This is something I've been talking about for a while, you know, that you've gotta stay flexible and different things can happen and you gotta be able to handle them," Donovan said. "So obviously a lot for us to digest and deal with going into this game with the number of people that are out. But we've got to, you know, find ways to throughout the course of the game maximize and utilize the players that we have available."
Markkanen entered the day questionable with a calf contusion initially suffered in the Bulls' Dec. 27 loss to the Golden State Warriors that he reaggravated in the team's Dec. 29 win over the Wizards. Donovan confirmed that Markkanen's absence was due to his entry into protocols, not the calf.
"He would have warmed up today. I think he was on the injury report as questionable, we wanted to see how he was feeling," Donovan said of Markkanen. "He is not out for his calf, but he could have been out for his calf. But right now, he didn't even get the opportunity to warm up and even test the calf out. So he's out like I said with the rest of those guys for the health and safety protocols by the league."
That leaves the Bulls with four starters -- Coby White, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Wendell Carter Jr. -- and eight reserves -- Garrett Temple, Otto Porter Jr., Daniel Gafford, Denzel Valentine, Luke Kornet, Adam Mokoka, Devon Dotson and Cristiano Felício -- available. And Thad Young, who was technically available for the Bulls' Dec. 29 matchup with the Wizards but didn't play, will again be available Thursday. But his workload as he ramps back up after missing nearly three weeks with a serious leg infection is to be determined.
"My guess is, yes, it’s going to go on here for a period of time," Donovan said of the absences. "How long? I’m really unsure of that. I think the daily testing helps bring some clarity to where guys are at. I don’t know how long it would be, but I do anticipate it being some time."
As for whether the above players will be able to travel to Milwaukee with the team, where the Bulls play the Bucks Friday?
"I don't have an answer to that right now," Donovan said. "Do these guys have to stay here, do they get put up in housing? Do they stay in a hotel? Do they fly back -- I don't even know any of that right now. That's something I think the league and the medical staff are going to have to talk about, but that's certainly going to be a topic of discussion."