Bulls Still Have No Clue How—or If—They’ll Play vs. Lakers on Sunday

The Chicago Bulls

Getty The Chicago Bulls

Down time? The Bulls have plenty of it this week, having last hit the court on Saturday in a loss to the Heat. Since then, what was left of the Bulls roster pretty much was sent into the NBA’s health and safety protocols, with 10 players officially on the list at one point.

That number has come down by two, according to coach Billy Donovan. Coby White and Javonte Green have gone through their 10-day stints in the protocols and are now free of COVID-19 as far as the league is concerned. They’re allowed, because they’re coming back from time off for the virus, to begin ramping up at the Bulls’ practice facility, which Donovan said they did on Thursday.

They were a lonely pair, though, calling into question what, exactly, the Bulls are supposed to do now with a game scheduled against the Lakers in a mere three days. Chicago has White and Green. There is a chance that star wing DeMar DeRozan, who entered protocols on December 7, could be back in time for Sunday but that is no sure thing.

Several Bulls, including star Zach LaVine, will be out past Christmas.

As of now, Donovan is looking at a rotation of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Nikola Vucevic in the starting lineup, probably with Javonte Green and either Coby White or Alfonso McKinnie. But he just has no idea who will be available.

“We really haven’t been able to do anything at all,” Donovan said on Thursday to reporters, via Zoom.

Zoom Calls a Reminder of 2020 NBA Season Shutdown

Even the method for Donovan’s media session was a daunting reminder that the spike in COVID-19 cases in the NBA, and around the country, has brought back the specter of a league-wide shutdown, much as we saw in March 2020. Much has changed since then—most notably, the addition of vaccines—but the massive outbreaks that seem to be making their way from team to team could leave the league with no choice.

Perhaps soon we’ll all be planning for a return to the Orlando bubble.

But the league is a long way from making a determination like that, and remains committed to playing this season as normally as possible. Just that, for a team like the Bulls, that is increasingly difficult.

In fact, going back to the opening of last season, the Bulls have been hit harder than any other team in the NBA by COVID-19. Chicago lost 233 games in the last two years, according to FanSure, well ahead of No. 2 on the list, the Sixers (210 games).

The Sixers lead this year with 98 games missed because of COVID-19, while the Bulls are No. 2, with 89.

Oubtreak started with White and Green, Who Are Now Practicing

There is some irony in Chicago’s situation in that White and Green are where the COVID-19 problem first hit the Bulls. But they’re the only ones eligible for practice. Players who have not tested positive are allowed to come into the practice facility for treatment, Donovan said, but not the work out.

White and Green, though, can work out at the team facility. Donovan explained:

It’s been kind of maybe two categories of guys: The guys that are recovering or been able to come out of protocols, which is Javonte and Coby. The league has allowed those guys to kind of start to ramp up activity. So they’ve been doing that. Then the other piece is anyone that’s dealing with any ailments, for example a guy like Alex Caruso who has been dealing with a hamstring, he can come in and get treatment, he can come in and get physical therapy. But the only two guys we have at this point and time that have been able to be in the gym coming out of protocols are Coby and Javonte.’


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