On Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls will hit the court for the first time in three days when they take on the Heat in South Beach. However, exactly which players will actually be available to participate in the contest is anyone’s guess.
On Thursday, forward Derrick Jones Jr. became the fifth Bulls player to enter health and safety protocols. He joined DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, Javonte Green and Matt Thomas. Now, two more players have reportedly entered protocols, as the Bulls continue to redefine what a COVID-19 outbreak can be during the 2021-22 NBA season.
As reported by NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson, rookie wing Ayo Dosunmu and veteran forward Stanley Johnson have been put into protocols as well. Johnson did note, though, that Alex Caruso (hamstring) would be available to play against the Heat.
So, there’s that.
A Next-Level Outbreak
The crazy thing about Johnson’s brush with Covid is that he was signed by the Bulls using a hardship exception that was triggered by the outbreak. Now, before he could even play a game for Chicago, he finds himself on “the list.”
In addition to bringing Johnson back into the fold, the Bulls just signed journeyman forward Alfonzo McKinnie by way of a second hardship exception. Now, the Bulls may find themselves looking to bring in yet another replacement player to round out the roster amid this next-level outbreak.
As it stands, the team has more than enough players to play against the Heat. Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Troy Brown Jr., Tony Bradley, Alize Johnson, Marko Simonovic, Caruso and McKinnie — as well as two-way players Devon Dotson and Tyler Cook — should all be ready to go for the game.
Still, this seemingly endless bout with the coronavirus threatens to act as a roadblock for what has been a resurgent campaign in Chicago thus far.
Entering the Heat game, the Bulls sit in second place in the Eastern Conference at 17-9, just one game behind the No. 1 Brooklyn Nets.
Bulls G League Team Is Also Duking It Out With Covid
While Billy Donovan’s club is currently getting pounded by the pandemic, it’s not the only part of the franchise that has been put through the wringer. The team’s G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, is having issues of its own as well.
Per an announcement by the team on Saturday, both of Windy City’s games against the Sioux Falls Skyforce (scheduled for December 11 & 12) have been postponed “in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols.”
Due to positive test results, as well as Dotson and Cook being with Chicago, Windy City doesn’t have the league-required eight available players to actually play the games.
According to Johnson, this isn’t a matter of “cross-contamination.” However, it still goes to show that professional sports — just like the rest of the living world — have yet to really master this Covid thing.