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Bulls coach Billy Donovan gets players back, but there are still lots of unknowns

Donovan said Thursday that Coby White and Javonte Green were out of the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols and working out at the Advocate Center. As far as the other eight players? That was still the great unknown as the Bulls prepare to host the Lakers on Sunday.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan isn’t sure what his team will look like for Sunday’s game against the Lakers.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan isn’t sure what his team will look like for Sunday’s game against the Lakers.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Billy Donovan has no idea what Sunday’s scheduled game against the Lakers at the United Center will look like come tip-off.

The Bulls coach has no idea on how many players he’ll have eligible, who Los Angeles will have, or even if the game will be played.

Understandable, considering Donovan didn’t even know Friday what his own practice facility would look like.

The first NBA team to have a game postponed this season, the Bulls are trying to work their way out of the league’s health and safety coronavirus protocols, just days removed from having 10 players shut down.

The good news on Thursday was that climb seemed to be taking place, but it’s obviously a very slow one.

Guard Coby White and wing Javonte Green — the first two to enter the protocols almost two weeks ago — had both been cleared and had started working out at the Advocate Center.

The last group to get hit on the Cleveland/Miami trip? They likely won’t see the floor until after Christmas, according to the coach.

That included Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson and Troy Brown Jr.

Then there’s DeMar DeRozan, Matt Thomas, Derrick Jones Jr., and Stanley Johnson, who remain the unknowns.

A lot to take in? Imagine how Donovan feels.

“So we really haven’t been able to do anything at all,’’ Donovan said via a Zoom call with the media on Thursday. “It’s been kind of maybe two categories of guys: The guys that are recovering or been able to come out of protocols, which is Javonte and Coby. The league has allowed those guys to kind of start to ramp up activity. So they’ve been doing that. Then the other piece is anyone that’s dealing with any ailments, for example a guy like Alex Caruso who has been dealing with a hamstring, he can come in and get treatment, he can come in and get physical therapy. But the only two guys we have at this point and time that have been able to be in the gym coming out of protocols are Coby and Javonte.’’

Donovan did say that there had been no new players or coaching personnel added to the protocols, which he was hoping meant the end was sooner than later.

Broadcasters Stacey King and Bill Wennington, who were in the traveling party, also went into the protocol last week.

The next step for the franchise was to get word from the NBA on what they can do in preparation for the Lakers game.

As of Thursday, they had 10 eligible players up and running, but nowhere to run them. Donovan was hoping that they could at least get some practice time in, but that wasn’t his call.

What the coach did know was his team was hit harder than any other NBA team, which could be a blessing in disguise for the next few months, and he also knew that expect the testing to only go up league-wide as the holiday season grows closer.

“I think the league is trying to do everything it can possibly do to play games and also keep teams safe and healthy,’’ Donovan said. “I don’t know what the right number is in order to say this team should play or this team shouldn’t play. Certainly we got hit really hard with this and we lost a lot of players. Other teams have been hit a little bit but not as much. And I’ve always said this, when you lose key players off your team, it definitely impacts you.

“A lot of this stuff that is going on to be quite honest is decisions the league is making based on the information they’re getting from probably the CDC, medical experts of how we need to progress and go forward and whether or not things should be postponed or teams should continue to play. I’m not really privy to those conversations.’’