If center Nikola Vucevic had an answer, he would have offered it.
But that’s the state of the Bulls these days — a lot of questions and few answers.
“I guess it’s part of the world we live in, this whole situation with COVID,’’ Vucevic said over the weekend in Miami, when the Bulls still had just seven players in the NBA’s health and safety protocol. “A lot of it doesn’t make much sense right now. Obviously, the scientists from around the world don’t have the answer, so I don’t. Some things are just weird.”
Little did Vucevic know things were about to get even weirder.
By the time the Bulls landed back in Chicago after their two-game road trip, preparing to start the week with a practice Monday, the number of his teammates in the protocol was up to 10.
By Monday afternoon, the NBA said enough was enough, postponing Tuesday’s game against the Pistons and Thursday’s game against the Raptors in Toronto. The league went even further Tuesday, changing Sunday’s game with the Lakers at the United Center from a 2:30 p.m. tipoff to 7 p.m. That was common practice last season for many originally scheduled day games so the NBA could fully test players for COVID-19 without having to make them get up early to accommodate afternoon starts.
There’s a basketball element to all of this for the Bulls: Specifically, which players are most hurt by the pause? Vucevic, who has been searching for consistency and rhythm on offense since missing seven games in the protocol himself last month, seems to be one. He’s on pace to shoot a career-worst 40.4% from the field. Facing the drowning Pistons, who have lost 12 straight games, might have been the perfect remedy for him.
Instead, he has more time off, and if play resumes as scheduled, he might have to deal with eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis if the Lakers use the smaller starting lineup they rolled out last week.
Other Bulls seemingly hurt by the layoff:
Guard Coby White
He was set to return Tuesday from the protocol, cleared by all accounts, and could have used the opportunity. Because of offseason shoulder surgery, he missed all summer activity and training camp and has played in only nine of 27 regular-season games this year. He was seeing an increase in minutes before he went into isolation with the virus.
White not only has to get his conditioning back but also will need to keep rookie Ayo Dosunmu — who has played better than White as a combo guard off the bench — from taking his minutes.
If the Bulls are looking to shop White, more missed games means less film and scouting opportunities for interested teams.
Forward DeMar DeRozan
The veteran has played like an MVP candidate all season but was on a head-shaking roll before he tested positive for COVID-19. In his last five games before he was shut down, he averaged 28.4 points and was shooting 56% from the field.
Yes, he’s a veteran and knows how to take care of his body during down time, but 14 days off between dominating in Brooklyn and playing the Lakers will test how quickly he can get back in the zone.