Bulls, NBA ease into training camp as pandemic remains threat

With training camps scheduled to open Tuesday, the NBA is making sure that every team understands its 134-page health and safety protocols document. More important is that it works.

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New Bulls coach Billy Donovan opens his first training camp this week.

New Bulls coach Billy Donovan opens his first training camp this week.


It’s being called a “document.’’

But at 134 pages, it reads more like a novel.

The NBA has made sure that all 30 teams have — and fully understand — the health and safety protocols for the coronavirus, much like it did for the 22 teams that entered the bubble at Disney World.

One major difference: The safety of that bubble is gone.

That’s where things get tricky. The NFL is finding out how tricky, with the last week the best — and most harsh — example.

The Broncos had to start a practice-squad receiver at quarterback against the Saints because they had a careless quarterback room that went unmasked. The Ravens have had their game against the Steelers pushed back three times in the wake of a strength coach who defied protocol. The 49ers are moving two home games to Arizona because of new contact restrictions in Santa Clara County.

Then there’s the musical chairs playing out each week in college football. This past weekend, schools have had to cancel or postpone 14 FBS games because of outbreaks. That included Ohio State’s game at Illinois, putting the Buckeyes’ hopes of playing in the Big Ten title game in jeopardy.

Yes, the NBA put the perfect model in place for the bubble, but being locked away from the rest of the world made that child’s play compared to what it needs teams to do now.

That’s why Bulls camp — and NBA camps everywhere — will look so different when they begin Tuesday.

To call this easing into the preseason is an understatement. The week will start off with daily testing and individual workouts for players. Don’t expect the Bulls to have a full team scrimmage until this weekend.

That leaves the new-look coaching staff about a week to evaluate and get a feel for the personnel before the Bulls’ first exhibition game Dec. 11 against the Rockets at the United Center.

After playing the Rockets again at home Dec. 13, the Bulls will have two more days of practice before heading to Oklahoma City with 45 people in the travelling party. They’ll play the Thunder in exhibition games Dec. 16 and 18.

Ready or not, the regular season tips off Dec. 22.

What the NBA is trying to pull off is admirable, but it’s also a slippery slope. Football teams have way more moving parts to keep an eye on, but they also have much bigger rosters to cover for a loss of players.

The Ravens have 18 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list and still are scheduled to play Wednesday in Pittsburgh. A roster hit like that would wipe out any chance for an NBA team to play for at least 10 days.

That’s why the league will be fluid in its schedule-making and protocols. It’s all subject to change and has to stay that way.

Even when the regular season begins, don’t expect to see many stars playing consistently, especially for teams that spent most of the summer in the bubble.

Teams will have to grow on the fly. In the case of a 22-win Bulls team, there’s a lot of growing to do.

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