Everything to Know About Chicago Bulls’ COVID-19 Outbreak

Everything to know about Bulls’ COVID-19 outbreak originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls are off to a 17-9 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, five of the Bulls’ 19 rostered players (including two-way contracts, the 10-day signing of Stanley Johnson and inking of Alfonzo McKinnie) are in protocols. 

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Here is everything you need to know about the situation:

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

Derrick Jones Jr. on Thursday became the fifth Bulls player in nine days to enter protocols, joining Coby White, Javonte Green, DeMar DeRozan and Matt Thomas. 

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

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.

White (on Dec. 11) and Green’s (on Dec. 13) 10-day marks are approaching, but each will need to clear COVID-19 testing and cardiac screening before being cleared for game action.

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.

What is the Bulls’ vaccination status?

The Bulls are a fully vaccinated team. As of last update, the NBA reported its league to be 97 percent vaccinated.

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

Head coach Billy 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. “The hard part going into the Denver game (on Dec. 6) was you’re going through preparation obviously, and everybody is there for shootaround. You finish up shootaround and then you find out a couple hours before the game that DeMar can’t play, so now you’re switching up the starting lineup, switching up rotations. So you gotta be flexible. That’s what we’re dealing with.”

Missing their starting small and power forwards in DeRozan and Green, rotation mainstays in White and now Jones Jr. (who started the last two games for Green), and a reserve failsafe in Thomas, Donovan’s rotations have also been strained. The Bulls lost 115-92 to the Cavaliers on Wednesday, and failed to record a bench point until the 10:44 mark of the fourth quarter. In Monday’s win over the Nuggets, Ayo Dosunmu (42), Lonzo Ball (40) and Zach LaVine (39) either set or tied season-high minutes totals.

Alex Caruso (right hamstring strain) and Patrick Williams have also missed the team’s last two games, thinning the roster further. Williams is out another three-to-five months rehabbing a wrist injury, while Caruso’s status is up in the air against the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Bulls sign Stanley Johnson and Alfonzo McKinnie with hardship exceptions

With so many people on the shelf, the NBA granted the Bulls two hardship exceptions to temporarily sign extra players.

In turn, the Bulls announced Thursday it signed Stanley Johnson to a 10-day contract. Johnson was with the Bulls for training camp and the preseason before losing out on the team’s final roster spot to Thomas; the 6-foot-6 forward adds athleticism and defensive versatility to a frontcourt in need. 

Friday morning, a team spokesperson confirmed the Bulls had also signed former Raptors, Warriors, Cavaliers and Lakers wing Alfonzo McKinnie, who owns 165 games of NBA experience. 

McKinnie, a 6-foot-7 29-year old, averaged 24.1 points and shot 43.3 percent from 3-point range in 10 games with the Ciudad de Mexico Capitanes G League team this season. He hails from Chicago, split his high school playing days between Curie and Marshall, and appeared in 50 games for the Windy City Bulls in 2016-17.

Johnson and McKinnie are both expected to join the team in Miami ahead of Saturday’s game.

Once the Bulls injured or protocol-affected players return, they will need to trim their roster back down to 15 players (17 including two-way contracts).

Will the NBA postpone any Bulls games?

Donovan said before Monday’s game against the Nuggets, hours after DeRozan entered protocol, that he had “not heard anything along those lines” when asked if he’d heard talk about the league potentially postponing games.

During the 2020-21 season, the NBA postponed 31 games due to COVID-19 complications. League rules state both teams must have at least eight active players to hold a game, offering a benchmark for situations when a postponement might be necessary.

As of this writing, the Bulls are slated to have 12 active players against the Heat (not including Caruso): LaVine, Vučević, Ball, Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., Tony Bradley, Alize Johnson, Marko Simonović, Stanley Johnson, McKinnie, and two-way players Devon Dotson and Tyler Cook.

After the Heat, the Bulls next have games scheduled at home against the Pistons on Tuesday, Dec. 14, on the road against the Raptors on Thursday, Dec. 16, and at home against the Lakers on Sunday, Dec. 19.

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