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Bulls coach Billy Donovan still sees a season that’s ‘worthwhile’

On the same day that the NBA announced tightened-up coronavirus protocols, the Bulls were getting closer to full strength with Ryan Arcidiacono and Lauri Markkanen out of the restrictions and back at practice.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan admits he can do a better job of keeping his mask on during games.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan admits he can do a better job of keeping his mask on during games.
AP

The NBA’s tightening of its coronavirus protocols was expected, especially after five games were called off this week, including the Celtics-Bulls game scheduled for Tuesday at the United Center.

The new rules will make life even more difficult for the players, coaches and staffs as they try to keep the season afloat, but Bulls coach Billy Donovan says they have to forge ahead.

“Listen, I need to do a better job [with the face mask],’’ Donovan said. “I’d be the first one to admit that.

‘‘The hard part for me is when I’m talking to the guys on the court, they can’t hear me. I feel bad for them. They are asking for instruction or direction. I’m sitting there, and they can’t read my lips. They can’t hear what I’m saying. Sometimes they can’t get all the way over to me. So I’ve taken it off to do that, and I maybe need to do a better job of just lowering it for a second, then pulling it back up.

“I’m getting a little chafed behind the ears from yanking it on and off, so I have to figure out some kind of solution.’’

For at least the next two weeks, the league and the players’ union said, players and team staff will have to remain at their residence when in their home markets and are prohibited from leaving their hotels when on the road — with exceptions primarily for practices and games. They also can’t have visitors in the hotels.

There will be limits to pregame meetings and new seating arrangements on team flights. Players must wear masks on the bench at all times after leaving a designated cool-down area when they’ve come out of a game.

“The biggest challenge in all this to me is people getting sick, but at least a lot of people have fully recovered,’’ Donovan said when asked if all the sacrifice was worth it to try to get a season in. “But I don’t know if anyone knows what the long-term effects are of getting COVID and what that looks like nine, 10 years from now. So that’s a little bit of the scary part.

“Do I think it’s worthwhile? I think it’s worthwhile as long as the people still making those decisions feel very, very comfortable about the safety measures and protocols in place to try to protect everybody as best as possible, and I think everybody is kind of putting their trust in the doctors, in the medical experts.’’

As tough as it was for guard Ryan Arcidiacono and forward Lauri Markkanen the last 12 days, they did just that. They put their trust in the experts.

Both were held out because of contact tracing even though neither tested positive. They were quarantining while their teammates were on the West Coast trip.

Both were glad to be involved in Tuesday’s full practice, but it wasn’t exactly an easy time they just went through.

“Yeah, you want to be super-cautious with it,’’ Arcidiacono said when asked if he was frustrated. “I was fortunate to test negative and still continue to [test negative].

“I tried to stay in touch and keep that chemistry going. But from a physical standpoint, I couldn’t really do too much, which is also disappointing because if you’re not able to be with the team, you want to be able to stay in shape and work out.’’

Forward Chandler Hutchison and guard Tomas Satoransky remain in quarantine after testing positive and have no timetable for a return.

“Just following league protocols,’’ Arcidiacono said. “Thank God I’m testing negative.’’