Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook tests positive for coronavirus before entering Orlando bubble

Russell Westbrook tests positive for coronavirus before entering Orlando bubble

Russell Westbrook announced via Twitter on Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the Rockets' departure for the league's Walt Disney World bubble, and that he is currently quarantined.

"I tested positive for covid-19 prior to my teams departure to Orlando. I'm currently feeling well, quarantined, and looking forward to rejoining my teammates when I am cleared," Westbrook said in a statement. "Thank you all for the well wishes and continued support. Please take this virus seriously. Be safe. Mask up! #whynot"

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As NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh noted, Westbrook is the fourth 2019-20 All-Star to publicly disclose testing positive for COVID-19, along with Donovan Mitchell, Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert, whose positive test shut the league down on March 11. Westbrook's teammate James Harden is also reportedly not currently with the team in Orlando, but there hasn't been official word on why.

All 22 teams participating in the season restart arrived in Orlando by July 9, and practices tipped off over the weekend. Inter-squad scrimmages are set to begin July 22, and the eight-game regular season resolution on July 30.

Per the NBA's Health and Safety protocols, Westbrook will need to isolate until he is asymptomatic, produces two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart, and passes a medical evaluation by an NBA-designated consulting infectious disease physician before rejoining the Rockets for team activities in the bubble. He'll also undergo cardiac screening before returning to play.

And as if all of that wasn't enough for Houston, ESPN reported Monday that Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo (accidentally) broke quarantine guidelines.

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4 observations from Rockets' blowout victory over Bulls

4 observations from Rockets' blowout victory over Bulls

The Bulls dropped to 3-7 with their 117-94 loss to the Rockets Saturday night at the United Center. Here are four observations:

Wendell Carter Jr. has been the most consistent player this season

The second-year big man posted his sixth double-double in 10 games after posting seven in 44 games last season. It featured a career-high 16 rebounds with 13 points.

Carter’s communication on defense helped backstop a strong first-half effort before the wheels fell off.

His ability to make an impact on the offensive end with so few plays called for him has stood out this season. His ability to play within himself and play to his strengths underscores a maturity which belies his age.

This was supposed to be the season Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen took the next step. Thus far, Carter has taken the biggest.

Carter said he has talked to coach Jim Boylen about having so few plays called for him.

"It doesn’t really bother me. It’s just a conversation I had with Coach. I said, ‘Coach, I’m going to do what I have to do on both ends. One or two play calls is not going to hurt,’" Carter said. "We’ve had our conversation, so we’re good."

The Bulls can’t beat the Rockets at their own game

The Bulls lead the NBA in shots within 5 feet and are sixth behind the league-leading Rockets in 3-point attempts.

They have a long way to go to reach the Rockets’ level.

The Bulls continued a season-long issue by clanking 3-pointer after 3-pointer. They finished 4-for-32 from that range and were outscored from beyond the arc 57-12.

Boylen brushed aside postgame questions about whether the Bulls need to change their offensive approach despite struggling from 3-point range all season.

"Who had better shots in the first half, us or them? Who had better shots, do you guys think? We did. We made them in Atlanta. We didn’t make them tonight. They made them and we didn’t. Give them credit," Boylen said. "We have guys shooting below their career averages by multiple points. Will that turn? I think it will. It’s frustrating when it doesn’t. I get it. Believe me. I’m sitting there with it too."

LaVine and Markkanen combined to miss 11 of 12. LaVine, in particular, struggled with shot selection and ball security in the second half after a solid first half, particularly at the defensive end.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 68 points. LaVine and Markkanen scored 24. The Rockets know what they’re getting from their stars pretty much every night. The Bulls can’t say the same for the players they want to be their stars.

"We’ve struggled to finish plays at the rim and struggled to make open shots. I think as the game goes on, it kind of wears our spirit down a little bit," Boylen said. "To me, it’s what happens to a young team. And it’s part of this growing process. I’m going to keep coaching and teaching these guys. We played three really good quarters against the Lakers. We played four really good quarters against Atlanta. We were down one at the half tonight. They doubled us up in the third quarter and that was the difference in the game. They made shots in the third and we didn’t. That’s what happened. All the clouds are cleared away now. That’s what happened. To come in here and think I’m going to change my system or change what we’ve been doing, it’s not what I’m about."

Chandler Hutchison showed more good than bad

Starting for the first time this season for the injured Otto Porter Jr., Hutchison powered home three dunks in the first half but missed a fourth and made some questionable decisions. On one possession, he threw the ball away rather than dribble it upcourt himself, which is one of his strengths.

He showed some nice aggressiveness rebounding in traffic and sprinted the floor hard. He even sank a second-half 3-pointer and continued to attack the rim, finally getting that fourth dunk. He finished with 13 points and mostly focused on his strengths — defense and rebounding.

The defense showed teeth in the first half before getting buried in an avalanche of 3-pointers

The Bulls held the league’s second-highest scoring team to 20 first-quarter points and 3.5 below their average of 120.5 points. They did so with active hands and aggressive trapping on pick-and-rolls.

This strategy backfired when Luke Kornet re-entered the first-half rotation and the Rockets repeatedly attacked him. But LaVine, in particular, looked engaged when isolated in individual matchups against Harden.

The Bulls have forced at least 15 turnovers in every game this season. They lead the league in forcing turnovers and finished with 14 steals.

"Defensively, to start the game, I felt like we were locked in. I felt we knocked some balls loose and stole the ball," Boylen said. "What I didn’t like is we fouled them early. Harden got fouled on 95 3s last year for three free throws. And we started the game with that. That’s a learning moment against Houston. Down one at the half, we hung in there and we hadn’t shot well. Third quarter, they shot the ball really well. And I thought it hurt our energy, it hurt our pace. They hit us with that barrage and we never really recovered."

Harden took over in the second half, scoring 22 of his 42 points and just missing a triple double with 10 rebounds and nine assists.

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What to watch for when the Bulls host James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets

USA Today

What to watch for when the Bulls host James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets

Fresh off their most impressive performance of the season, the Bulls welcome James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets to the United Center, Saturday night. The contest tips off on NBC Sports Chicago at 7 p.m. CT — until then, here’s what to watch for:

1. Beware of the breakout

Stopping Harden and Westbrook completely is, on its face, an impossible ask. But if the Bulls want any shot at hanging with Houston, they’ll have to find a way to at least slow them down. 

Jim Boylen’s uber-aggressive, ball-handler-blitzing defense revealed some glaring rotational deficiencies at the start of the season, but in Wednesday’s win they showed signs of progression. Tomas Satoransky and Kris Dunn combined to smother Trae Young (2-of-6 shooting, three turnovers with Satoransky or Dunn as the primary defender), and they will likely take lead responsibilities defending Harden.

The Rockets are a different beast than the Hawks, though, so beware of the breakout: By each of their lofty standards, Harden and Westbrook are off to sluggish starts to the season, efficiency-wise. Harden is shooting his lowest percentage from three (27%) on his most attempts per game (13.9) in his career so far, and as a backcourt, he and Westbrook have two of the seven highest turnover per game totals in the league.

Maybe a steal-happy Bulls squad gives them fits. Or maybe facing a middling defense short its best wing defender in Otto Porter Jr. is exactly what the Rockets’ dynamic duo need to get back on track.

2. Wing depth and rotation concerns

Speaking of Porter, check out these per-game splits. Small sample-size alert, but they tell a story:

First five games: 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals; 31.8%, 57.9% from three

Last four games: 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals; 52.5% FG, 57.9% from three

The Bulls record in his first five was 1-4. The last four? 2-2, and that includes a loss to the Lakers that the Bulls dominated for three-plus quarters. 

Now, they’ll have to make do without Porter for an undisclosed period of time, and he leaves a massive hole in their rotation behind Chandler Hutchison. Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford are back from Hoffman Estates, but Boylen hasn't demonstrated an affinity for either of them — the two have combined for 11 minutes of playing time so far this season.

Valentine, specifically, is coming off a 25 point, 18 rebound, 8 assist effort for Windy City last night. Without much in the way of wing depth against an opponent that could bait the Bulls into foul trouble, it's worth monitoring if he can jump Shaq Harrison or Ryan Arcidiacono in the rotation.

Whatever shape it may take, buckle up for some Boylen experimenting tonight.

3. A plan of attack

To flip a timeless adage on its head, sometimes — when faced with as prolific an offensive attack as Houston’s — the best defense is great offense. The Rockets have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league so far this season, and it all starts in their backcourt. They haven’t held an opponent under 100 points in any of their first eight games and have ceded 25+ point outings to Bradley Beal, Alec Burks and Caris Levert in the last week-and-a-half.

The Bulls should have enough firepower in at the guard spot to take advantage. Satoransky is coming off perhaps the best performance of his career, Zach LaVine is circling a breakout and Coby White — one-dimensional as he may be — has shown an ability to put balls in the basket. Wear Harden, Westbrook, Gordon and co. down on that end of the floor, and it might reap benefits that creep into other areas of the game.

4. Threes on threes on threes

Ultimately, these are both teams that want to push the pace and shoot a ton of threes — those themes will undoubtedly pervade this game from start to finish. 

Houston is second in the league in three-pointers attempted (47.8) and made (15.8) per game this season; the Bulls are 10th (35.0) and 15th (11.7), respectively. The Rockets rank dead last in midrange attempts per game (4.8), the Bulls 28th (6.8). The list goes on, but you get the picture.

The key: Neither of these teams is actually shooting the three-ball all that well, at least not yet. Believe it or not, the Bulls are currently outpacing the Rockets in three-point percentage by decimal points, but Houston is playing at a much faster tempo (107.6 possessions per game compared to the Bulls’ 102.8). Expect a lot of possessions, a lot of early-shot-clock jumpers, and a lot of points tonight. 

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