Bulls-Raptors game postponed: Bad news for Alfonzo McKinnie?
It was the third postponed game for the Bulls since last week after the Raptors landed in Chicago on Tuesday night decimated by the number of players in the health and safety protocols. But a Chicago kid like McKinnie wants every opportunity to prove himself on a limited 10-day contract.
Considering the number of players the Raptors had in the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocol, it was probably smart for the league to postpone the game against the Bulls on Wednesday night at the United Center.
The Raptors landed in Chicago on Tuesday night with a skeleton lineup and traveling party decimated with positive tests, including Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, Malachi Flynn, Pascal Siakim, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet.
Suspending the game was the right move.
That might be a tough sell for Alfonzo McKinnie, however.
Then again, a player like McKinnie isn’t operating with the same mindset as most throughout the league. The well-traveled forward isn’t guaranteed an opportunity tomorrow, let alone on Dec. 26, when the Bulls are scheduled to play their next game against the visiting Pacers.
It’s about trying to take advantage of a situation that has a shelf life, and erasing a day from the calendar does him no good.
“Man, to be honest, it’s the biggest dream come true,’’ McKinnie said of playing for his hometown Bulls. “I’m a West Side kid. I grew up like 10, 15 minutes down the way. House was a Bulls house. Watched the Bulls growing up. So just being able to compete on the highest stage in my hometown, on my favorite side of the city, the West Side, it’s been surreal to be honest.
“Just putting that jersey on has been everything for me.’’
But for how long?
The Bulls nabbed the 6-7 McKinnie, as well as Stanley Johnson, a few weeks back when they were granted hardship exemptions after their own outbreak with eventually 10 players entering the protocol.
For a player like McKinnie, however, he couldn’t have asked for a better fit. After playing high school ball at Curie and Marshall, McKinnie spent time on four other NBA rosters, and was playing with Mexico City, another G-League team.
When the Bulls reached out to him, not only was he headed back to the NBA, but it was a homecoming.
“I remember being in the house with my grandmother and I always thought the Bulls had the dopest intro,’’ McKinnie said. “Standing out there on the court and hearing the intro, seeing the Bulls run through the other team’s bus, that’s something I remember being excited to see as a kid.’’
He has been playing like a guy excited to be living out his childhood dream, and while the sample size is small — just three games — putting in 25 minutes per game and averaging eight points for the Bulls in that time is huge for McKinnie.
That’s why a game postponed is a gut punch for the undrafted 29-year-old.
McKinnie obviously wants to stick with the Bulls and have as many opportunities to put his game play on film for other teams to notice. With how active roster changes have been leaguewide the last few weeks, players are needed.
But there’s another scenario that could play out. What if McKinnie has impressed enough and the Bulls want to keep him for the remainder of the season? He’s on his second 10-day contract and has shown some versatility that Matt Thomas hasn’t.
“He’s a great guy, a team guy,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of McKinnie. “His learning of our system . . . just terminology, things we’re running, he’s done a good job of picking that up pretty quickly. And then he has shot the ball well. He can put it on the floor. He’s unselfish. And he gives you a lot of length on the perimeter defensively. He has fit in very, very well.’’
For how long remains to be seen.