Amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has hit the Chicago Bulls especially hard, the NBA has opted to postpone the team's next two games as it has 10 players in the league's health and safety protocols. Alize Johnson became the 10th player to enter protocols Monday morning, leaving the Bulls with just nine active players, one more than the required eight players needed to play in a game.
Per the league's statement:
The Chicago Bulls' next two games – Tuesday, Dec. 14 against the Detroit Pistons and Thursday, Dec. 16 at Toronto – have been postponed. Ten Bulls players, along with additional staff members, are currently in the NBA's Health and Safety Protocols.
Chicago was scheduled to play the Detroit Pistons Tuesday, followed by a road trip to take on the Toronto Raptors Thursday, but the league decided to postpone those two games to give the Bulls a chance to get some players back healthy.
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Below is a list of Chicago's players currently in protocols:
- Alize Johnson, Chicago Bulls -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 23
- Zach LaVine -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 22
- Troy Brown Jr. -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 22
- Ayo Dosunmu -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 21
- Stanley Johnson -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 21
- Derrick Jones Jr. -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 20
- Matt Thomas -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 18
- DeMar DeRozan -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 16
- Coby White -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 14
- Javonte Green -- Expected to be out until at least Dec. 14
Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr. entered league protocols Sunday. LaVine is expected to be sidelined for a minimum of 10 days, but could be back sooner if he records two negative tests in a 24-hour period. Even the team's broadcasters -- Stacey King and Bill Wennington -- have entered protocols.
Bulls center Nikola Vucevic recently returned to game action after his own bout with COVID-19 in November. The Bulls have been testing players and coaches multiple times per day amid the team-wide outbreak. The good news is that Bulls players are vaccinated, so they're not dealing with too many severe symptoms.
"Maybe some of it's because of the vaccination, we've got a lot of guys sitting at home with no symptoms right now," Bulls coach Donovan said of the situation Saturday, via ESPN. "That's obviously a good thing, too, because I think when guys have gone through a real difficulty of getting really, really sick, it's really made it a lot harder for them coming back. ... We do have some guys that have felt under the weather, we have guys that have very, very mild symptoms, and some guys that just don't have any."
All of the absences are unfortunate for a Bulls team that has been very good when healthy. Chicago currently sits third in the Eastern Conference standings with a 17-10 record. Though not ideal, the Bulls have done their best to persevere.
"It is a scary time," Donovan added. "Our guys have really done a good job of just trying to put their best foot forward to try to really stay locked in on, 'This is what I have to do,' or, 'This is what I can control,' and try to move forward with it."
The other positive is that White and Green could soon return to action this week after being the first two players to enter COVID-19 protocols over a week ago. DeRozan's return could follow shortly behind that after being sidelined just hours before Chicago's Dec. 6 win against the Denver Nuggets when he tested positive for the virus.
One team they just faced Saturday, the Miami Heat, is already dealing with the possible exposure as forward Caleb Martin and broadcaster Jason Jackson both entered protocols. Postponing the next two games will help ensure that this outbreak doesn't spread any further than it already has within the Bulls' organization, in addition to potentially spreading to any other opposing teams Chicago faces.