Mirotic ruled out for Game 3, could miss Game 4 with injury


Mirotic ruled out for Game 3, could miss Game 4 with injury

They were already prepared for it, like they’ve been prepared to play with a man down all season long as the Bulls officially ruled rookie forward Nikola Mirotic out of Game 3 with a left knee strain.

And it seems likely he’ll miss Game 4 Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee as well, as he didn’t do any contact activity at practice, doing some light shooting on the side and activity on a bike, but nothing significant.

“We’re prepared both ways,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on the possibility they’ll be without Mirotic all weekend. “That’s the way we have to go into every game. He could play in the next one. It could be two games. I don’t know how many games. He said he feels a lot better today than he did yesterday, which is a good sign.”

[MORE: Bulls: Pau Gasol takes home Magic Johnson Award]

It appears Kirk Hinrich will make his return for Game 3 in Milwaukee, one healthy body back while Mirotic takes a seat. Of course the two aren’t equal in importance, position or role.

“Obviously he’s been a big part of our team, coming off the bench the second half of the year,” said Mike Dunleavy of Mirotic. “You know, it will be an adjustment. We’re going to miss that firepower, but I think we get Kirk back and we have guys that can fill in hopefully.

“I mean (Mirotic)’s a unique player, so can’t really duplicate exactly what he does, but we’ve got guys that can fill in and hopefully hold down the fort.’’

Mirotic got into a couple scrums with Bucks center Zaza Pachulia and strained his knee diving for the ball late in Game 2. So far in the series, he’s averaging 6.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in 18 minutes.

[SHOP: Get a Nikola Mirotic jersey here]

Wanting to control the glass has been a chief concern for Thibodeau so he’s gone more to Taj Gibson in this series than Mirotic, as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler have handled the bulk of the scoring responsibilities.

Gibson battled foul trouble in Game 2, picking up three quick ones in five minutes but grabbed 11 in 25 minutes in Game 1.

“Taj will get more minutes and he needs to get going. We'll just work with what we have like we have ben doing all season long,” forward Pau Gasol said. “(Nikola) adds a lot of versatility to our frontcourt. the floor is gonna be more open when he's out there because of his shooting ability. I'm sure we'll miss some of his stuff.”

NBA, NBPA announce latest coronavirus testing results ahead of restart

NBA, NBPA announce latest coronavirus testing results ahead of restart

In a joint statement, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced the results of its latest COVID-19 testing period in advance of its season restart in Orlando, Fla.

Since testing began on June 23, 25 of 351 players tested produced positive results, which represents a nine-player increase since the league’s last disclosure on June 26, when it reported 16 of 302 players (5.3%) had tested positive. Ten of 884 team staff members tested from June 23 - 29 were positive. In all, that equates to a 7.1% positive rate for players and 1.1% positive rate for staff. Of 1,235 tested NBA employees, 35 were positive (2.8%).

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“Any player, coach or team staff member who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until they satisfy public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and have been cleared by a physician,” the statement released by the league and Players Association said.

For comparison, the NHL, which also plans to restart in July, announced on June 29 that 15 players from a sample "in excess of 250" players that reported to team facilities produced positive results upon testing (so, a rate of 6% or fewer).

The 22 NBA teams participating in the season restart began mandatory “Phase 2” testing on June 23 upon returning to their respective home markets (with the exception of the Toronto Raptors, who traveled straight to Orlando, according to multiple reports). Some players have publicly disclosed that they tested positive, including Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets — who reported being symptomatic to The Athletic’s Shams Charania — Jabari Parker of the Sacramento Kings, and others.

The Nets and Denver Nuggets both recently closed their team facilities after multiple positive tests in the organizations, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and the Denver Post’s Mike Singer, respectively. The Nets have since reopened their facility, per Wojnarowski.

“Phase 3” of the NBA’s return plan — in which head coaches are allowed to observe restricted workouts, but group workouts are still prohibited — began on July 1. Travel to Orlando for the teams participating in the restart is set to be staggered between July 7 and July 9, with group workouts permitted starting July 11 after a period of isolation. Regular testing will happen throughout the restart.


How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

C.J. Watson carved out a 10-year NBA career with not just talent but also an ability to overcome odds and tune out doubters.

So whenever the former Bulls guard encountered skepticism for his latest dream, he’d answer every "Why” with a "Why not?”

That dream? To create children's books. Watson, 36, has now published two titles: "CJ’s Big Dream" and "CJ’s Big Project." The first came out last November, the second in March.

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“It was just a random idea I had to challenge myself and try to push myself,” Watson said in a phone conversation. “I want to try to continue to be an inspiration. Playing in the NBA is an inspiration to kids. But I wanted to continue to offer kids knowledge and tell my story through books.

“Kids are the next generation of leaders. They’re the next entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers. Some kid will grow up to be President. I just wanted to try to share some gems and drops of knowledge. I want to try to propel little boys and girls and let them know it’s OK to shoot for their dreams and to dream big.”

The books were written by author Tamika Newhouse and illustrated by Cameron Wilson based on stories shared by Watson. Watson spent hours on the phone over a six-month period with Newhouse, sharing his stories and his vision for the project, which is scheduled to include at least one more title.

They are based on Watson’s upbringing in Las Vegas, where he first experienced doubts for his NBA dream.

“These are true stories,” Watson said. “I made it to the NBA after growing up in the inner city and not having the same resources or same chances as some. Growing up, seeing graffiti, abandoned houses, drugs, gangs, it can be discouraging. But I had a great support system that kept me focused on my goal.”

The second book focuses on the time Watson received an F on a science project in school. But the teacher offered him a chance to re-do it, which taught him a valuable lesson.

“The second book talks about working hard and the importance of getting good grades to be able to play sports,” he said. “That was the important thing in my household. If we didn’t have good grades, my brother and I couldn’t play sports.”

Watson is the father of two children with one on the way. His parents, Cathy and Charles, stressed education and reading as they raised him and his brother. He majored in psychology at Tennessee, which is in his parents’ hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

“My parents came from an area more poverty-stricken than I did,” Watson said. “You always want better for your kid, right? We might not have lived in the best area, but they always put my brother and me in the best schools to give us the best chance to succeed.

“They also were big on me and my brother doing community service. We’d go feed the homeless. We’d go visit nursing homes to care for the elderly. When I was younger, I always said if I made it that I wanted to give back.”

Watson and his family established his Quiet Storm Foundation in 2009. That foundation established an active presence in Chicago during his two seasons with the Bulls.

Watson is eight years removed from that stint, where he played an important role for a reserve unit so potent that it achieved its own nickname. “The Bench Mob” proved a significant reason the Bulls led the NBA in regular-season victories in consecutive seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“It was definitely fun. It goes by fast. Chicago was probably some of the best years I had in the NBA,” Watson said. “We could’ve achieved more. We weren’t picked to do much that first year and surprised everybody. Then that second year, D-Rose got hurt.

“I felt like they should’ve kept the team together maybe a couple more years to try to see what could’ve happened. But it’s a business at the end of the day.”

Watson isn’t surprised Rose, who he backed up, is thriving again after a series of knee injuries, surgeries and rehabilitations.

“Definitely a great teammate, probably one of my favorites,” Watson said. “Injuries take a toll on you. He was held up to the MVP standard and some people judged him unfairly. But he has worked so hard. I’m definitely rooting for him and I’m always watching.”

Watson played for Charles Oakley’s team in the Big3 last summer, a 3-on-3 pro league that was canceled this summer because of COVID-19. He isn’t sure if he’ll play again if the league resumes next summer.

“It was fun. But it’s a different league. It’s pretty brutal. They don’t call any fouls. It’s kind of an old man’s game,” Watson said. “My body may have had enough.”

No matter his decision, Watson’s mind remains sharp.

“These books definitely are not a money maker. It’s a passion project,” Watson said. “Unless you’re a big-time children’s author, you probably won’t make a living at this. But I just did it to inspire kids and challenge myself. It’s kind of like the NBA. I never thought I’d make the NBA.  But lo and behold, I worked hard enough and got there.”