Garrett Temple has played for 10 teams in 11 NBA seasons. He's experienced plenty.
But even he has never dealt with what happened to the Bulls on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That’s because it hadn’t happened before.
The typical NBA protocol is for a team on a three-game trip, as the Bulls were beginning Monday night in Indiana, to fly to the next city postgame.
But the snowstorm that pelted the Midwest Monday night prevented the Bulls from doing so following their overtime victory over the Pacers. So they changed plans, spent the night in Indianapolis and woke Tuesday morning with a flight to Charlotte planned.
Instead, the NBA announced that the Hornets’ next two games would be postponed as part of the league’s health and safety protocols because Charlotte had played the Spurs, who had four players test positive for COVID-19.
As the Bulls made plans to return to Chicago for a couple days of practice and sleep in their own beds in advance of a Friday game in Philadelphia, the league also announced that the Detroit Pistons’ game scheduled for Wednesday at the Mavericks would be postponed due to inclement weather in Dallas.
Suddenly, two teams within close proximity had an open date on their schedule -- and a desire to play.
“I’m actually glad we were able to play to keep that same semblance of a schedule,” Temple said. “I think in this time right now, you have to be adaptable and flexible. For the league to be able to schedule this game -- obviously hopefully everyone in Dallas is safe -- and for Detroit to be close to us so we can both not be too backed up the second half of the season, it definitely helps us.”
The league signed off on the addition to the schedule as long as all logistical hurdles could be cleared. Though the late addition to the schedule may have a pick-up game feel, the NBA obviously doesn’t operate that way. Officials’ schedules had to be adjusted. Stat crews accounted for. Arena needs met.
Just as daunting is the challenge the schedule change created for coaches. The Bulls already had played the Hornets. Creating a game plan based on advance scouting would be routine.
Instead, Billy Donovan and his staff pivoted to an opponent that previously hadn’t even been on the Bulls’ first-half schedule. So not only had the Bulls not played the Pistons, they hadn’t done much advance scouting on them.
"There was a lot to get ready for because as a staff, you have guys working on Charlotte to get prepared to play them," Donovan said. "Now, all of a sudden, you're playing a team that wasn't even on your schedule so there was no reason to prepare. We basically started preparing once we found out. But it's the same thing for them, too. We felt like we had enough time (to prepare). We had shootaround (Wednesday) morning. We had time as a staff to watch film on the plane coming back and then all last night and this morning."
Temple applauded the coaches’ efforts.
“For us, it hasn’t been much different,” he said. “We typically don’t watch film on the team until the day before or the day of. And they’ll send us the information to our phones. We had a normal shootaround as players just going against a team we haven’t seen before. The coaches had to do a lot of overtime, I would imagine.”
The Bulls have endured two other lengthy layoffs between games when the Celtics and Grizzlies also had to postpone games as opponents due to health and safety protocols. As valuable as practice time can be, Temple saw it another way.
“Especially after a tough-fought win, we felt like we played pretty well defensively, we made some big plays,” he said of Monday’s overtime victory over the Pacers. “So we have that taste of a win in our mouth. We wanted to keep it going.”