Bulls

Bulls games postponed: What to know about COVID outbreak

Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are off to a 17-10 start to the 2021-22 season, but of late have seen a slew of health and safety protocol entries throw their team’s well-being, schedule and rotations into flux.

As of this writing, 10 of the Bulls’ 19 rostered players (including two-way contracts and the 10-day signings of Stanley Johnson and Alfonzo McKinnie) are in protocols. The NBA on Monday postponed Bulls games against the Pistons (on Dec. 14) and Raptors (on Dec. 16) — the league's first postponements of the season.

Here is everything you need to know about the situation:

How many Bulls are in NBA COVID-19 health and safety protocols?

Alize Johnson on Monday became the 10th Bulls player to enter protocols in the last 13 days, joining Coby White, Javonte Green, DeMar DeRozan, Matt Thomas, Derrick Jones Jr., Ayo Dosunmu, Stanley Johnson, Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr.

The Bulls have confirmed positive test results for White, who entered protocols on Dec. 1, and Green, who entered protocols on Dec. 3. The team only discloses positive tests with the player's approval.

That means 11 Bulls players have entered health and safety protocols this season, including Nikola Vučević, who tested positive in early November.

Two Bulls games postponed

The NBA announced Monday that the Bulls' Dec. 14 game against the Pistons (in Chicago) and Dec. 16 game against the Raptors (in Toronto) are being postponed.

 

With 10 players in protocols, and Patrick Williams rehabbing a severe wrist injury, the Bulls had eight players available at time of postponement, which would have fulfilled the league's minimum of eight players to field a team and hold a game.

Still, the league took action, citing the Bulls' 10 players and "additional staff members" in protocols as factors. The NBA postponed 31 games due to COVID-19 during the 2020-21 season, but these are the first postponements of 2021-22.

The next game on the Bulls' schedule is now a home matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Dec. 19. The Pistons and Raptors games will be rescheduled at a later date.

When will the Bulls players in protocols return?

Once each of them stays 10 days in protocol, and/or returns two negative PCR tests in a 24-hour span, protocol-affected players undergo cardiac screening sanctioned by the NBA. Then, they are eligible to return.

As a frame of reference, Vučević tested positive on Nov. 11, and was sidelined until returning on Nov. 24, missing seven games in the process.

White and Green have each passed 10 days in protocols, but their statuses are yet unclear. White, at least, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, re-entered the Bulls' facility to begin his ramp-up towards a return on Sunday.

With the postponements, the Bulls hope to reset and start welcoming players back before they next play. Five players in protocols — White, Green, DeRozan, Thomas and Jones Jr. — will have finished 10 days in protocols by then, though that doesn't guarantee they'll be eligible to play.

What is the Bulls’ vaccination status?

The Bulls are a fully vaccinated team. Vučević said after Saturday's loss to the Heat that "most" of the team has received booster shots.

As of last update, the NBA reported its league to be 97 percent vaccinated. The Bulls have offered boosters to players and staff.

Head coach Billy Donovan said in Miami he's spoken to Bulls players in protocols, and most are dealing with either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic altogether.

"Maybe some of it's from the vaccination, we've got a lot of guys sitting home with no symptoms," Donovan said. "I understand the testing protocols, and I understand what the league's trying to do in terms of keeping and making sure everybody's safe. But we do have guys back there that feel fine. And that's obviously a good thing too, because I think when guys have gone through real, real difficulty of getting really, really sick, it's really made it a lot harder for them coming back."

How have the Bulls been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak?

Donovan has disclosed that the team, while vaccinated, is back to testing multiple times per day. Players are encouraged to be masked for all team activities. And the Bulls’ ability to practice and hold shootarounds on game days has been inhibited by recent protocol entries.

“The league has put some things on us that we can and cannot do as a group, so it’s definitely been somewhat challenging,” Donovan said before the team's Dec. 6 game against the Nuggets.

 

Missing their starting shooting guard, small forward and power forward in LaVine, DeRozan and Green, rotation mainstays in White, Dosunmu and Jones Jr., and a reserve failsafe in Thomas, Donovan’s rotations have also been strained, and those available have played heavy minutes. 

In all, three of the Bulls' eight active players as of Monday are either two-way players (Devon Dotson, Tyler Cook) or a hardship exception addition (McKinnie). Vučević, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso (who is just one game returned from a hamstring strain), Tony Bradley and Marko Simonović are the other five. Eight of the team's top 11 scorers are out, including the top two of DeRozan and LaVine.

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