“I’m the safest guy to be around,’’ Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, who tested positive for the coronavirus last month, said after Saturday night’s loss in Miami.
As of Sunday, he might be the only safe one on the team.
Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr. became the eighth and ninth Bulls currently isolated in the NBA’s COVID-19 health-and-safety protocol after players were tested before boarding their flight in Miami.
LaVine and Brown join Coby White, Javonte Green, DeMar DeRozan, Matt Thomas, Derrick Jones Jr., Stanley Johnson and Ayo Dosunmu, as well as Bulls broadcasters Stacey King and Bill Wennington.
A source said the Bulls were hoping the NBA would change its stance against postponing games while they deal with their outbreak, but that seems unlikely because they still have nine eligible players for Tuesday’s meeting with the Pistons at the United Center.
White and Green are expected back by that game. A source said White was at the team facility Sunday and has started the cardio screening process, while Green could be in Monday.
The NBA has allowed hardship roster exceptions — the Bulls got two last week — and if a team has enough players, the game goes on, no matter which big names are out.
Vucevic missed seven games in November after his own positive test. Those who had COVID-19 previously are believed to have a 60- to 90-day window of immunity — or at least that’s what Vucevic is counting on.
“I don’t want to say something and start a crazy conspiracy, but [the entire team] got vaccinated [and] most of us have been boostered,” Vucevic said. “I didn’t get boostered yet because I had it, so I’m like in the best position for 60 to 90 days or whatever it is. I’m cleared of everything.
“Your team tests when you have cases, and guys pop up. For me, for example, if I would have never tested, I would have never known I was positive because I didn’t really have any symptoms. I had symptoms like if I had a little cold.
“It just sucks that when you get it, you have to be out for 10 days and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to work your way back. When there’s a lot of guys like this at once, it’s hard.”
The Bulls were off Sunday but were scheduled to practice Monday. Vucevic is eager to get back to work after going 3-for-15 for 10 points in Saturday’s 118-92 loss. He’s shooting just 40.4% from the field and 34% from three-point range — numbers he’s not used to seeing on his stat sheet.
He has been going to the arena for extra shooting, staying after practices and watching film of every shot in search of his missing touch.
“That’s the only way,” he said. “I got here by working my way up to it. Talent is part of it, but I worked my way to the level that I am, and now that I’m going through a tough time, the only way I know is to work myself out of it.”