Bulls finally are protocol-free, and guard Lonzo Ball is hoping it stays that way
Ball hasn’t been in the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols this season, and he’s making sure it stays that way by embracing a monotonous lifestyle.
Monotony might have been Bulls guard Lonzo Ball’s best friend in the last month.
To hear him describe it, his days have been pretty simple. He has gone to the Advocate Center for a practice or shootaround and to the United Center for a game and has relaxed in his hotel room on the road.
‘‘I don’t really do too much,’’ Ball said. ‘‘I just play and go back home, really. There’s not a lot of situations where I can probably get COVID, and I’m just thankful I haven’t gotten it yet.’’
So is Ball on to something or just very lucky? Considering the science, it’s likely the latter. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As of Thursday, Ball was one of the Bulls’ few regulars not to be in the NBA’s coronavirus health-and-safety protocol this season. It’s a very short list, actually, with Ball, guard Alex Caruso and big man Tony Bradley (provided he counts as a regular).
As badly as the Bulls’ roster was decimated, however, it seems as though the dark days are behind the team for now. There aren’t many NBA teams that can say that at the moment.
Center Nikola Vucevic, forward DeMar DeRozan and guard Zach LaVine — all of whom have spent time in the protocol — finally were reunited when LaVine returned to practice Thursday. He felt good he missed only two games because of three postponements.
LaVine was part of the last big group of Bulls players who went into the protocol, along with forward Alize Johnson, guard Ayo Dosunmu and swingman Troy Brown Jr. All four were cleared, as was guard Devon Dotson, who entered the protocol this week but already tested out.
The only two players who didn’t practice Thursday sat out because of regular injuries. Caruso still was dealing with a sprained left foot that is expected to keep him out for about a week, and forward Derrick Jones Jr. was sidelined with a strained hamstring that isn’t thought to be serious.
That was it. No player is still in the protocol.
As a matter of fact, the roster was overcrowded after the Bulls added forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Mac McClung as hardship exemptions before they knew they would get healthy this quickly.
Even more improbable is how little damage the Bulls sustained in the Eastern Conference standings throughout the protocol ordeal. The COVID outbreak started after their victory Nov. 29 against the Hornets, but they have lost only two games since.
Yes, the schedule will catch up with them at some point, with three games to make up. But the fact the Bulls (19-10) are sitting with the No. 2 seed in the conference says a lot about the depth the front office added during the offseason and the mindset coach Billy Donovan and the players reinforced during the height of the virus outbreak.
‘‘I mean, we harp on it every day, just being resilient,’’ Ball said. ‘‘We want to be one of the hardest-playing teams in the league.
‘‘It gets back to the resilient part. We had guys step up. We have an identity we want to play with as a whole. We address that whenever we can meet. Guys come in with the mindset that they want to work hard and play hard, and we start from there and go from there.’’