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Coronavirus concerns continue to hamper Bulls’ normal activity

Matt Thomas was the latest Bull to be put in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, bringing the total to four. Thomas joined DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green and Coby White.

Guard Matt Thomas is the latest Bulls player to enter the NBA’s coronavirus protocols.
Guard Matt Thomas is the latest Bulls player to enter the NBA’s coronavirus protocols.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

CLEVELAND — It wasn’t the phone call coach Billy Donovan wanted to receive.

The timing — 6:30 a.m. Wednesday — only made it worse.

Donovan was informed that reserve guard Matt Thomas had entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, forcing the team to send him back to Chicago.

Thomas joined DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green and Coby White in the protocols, with White and Green confirmed positive with the coronavirus. DeRozan and Thomas can only be described as in the protocols, a privacy choice for players that the league instituted last season.

So Donovan could only say so much.

“Some of the regulations from last year are a lot different this year,’’ Donovan said. “There are certain things that all these guys have to clear inside the health and safety protocols, and it’s really more the league and the medical staff determining if that’s been satisfied.’’

Thomas having to make the five-hour drive from Cleveland, however, was a pretty clear indication that he was more than just a false positive, but, again, little is known within the protocol walls unless the player allows it.

For Donovan, being down four players was tough from a rotation standpoint, and as a result of the outbreak, the Bulls are restricted in the amount of time they can spend around each other.

So there was no shootaround in Cleveland, a practice Friday in Miami was up in the air and the shootaround before the Heat game already was canceled.

“The league has put some things on us that we can and cannot do as a group, so it’s definitely been somewhat challenging,’’ Donovan said. “The hard part going into the Denver game [on Monday] was you’re going through preparation obviously, and everybody is there for shootaround. You finish up shootaround, then you find out a couple of hours before the game that DeMar can’t play, so now you’re switching up the starting lineup, switching up rotations, so you gotta be flexible. That’s what we’re dealing with.

“Certainly, there have been several guys on our team that have been impacted by it, but, yeah, to your question, our practices have been impacted by that.’’

Donovan said the league had allowed the team a hardship exemption, and all signs point to Stanley Johnson joining the Bulls in Miami to help out with the depth issue.

The Caru-Show

Guard Alex Caruso made some strides in his recovery from a hamstring injury. He traveled with the team for the two-game trip and will have two days off to continue testing the leg before the game in Miami on Saturday.

“There will be a lot more sprinting, lateral cutting just to see how he responds,’’ Donovan said. “So the phase he was in when he had gotten hurt, he’s progressed way past that right now. So he’s doing really, really well. Now I don’t know how he’s going to respond to that actual starting, stopping, sprinting, but the medical guys, along with Alex, feel pretty comfortable with where he’s at now.’’

Caruso was tied with Jimmy Butler for the league lead in steals with 2.2 per game. The Bulls hope to have Caruso against the Heat, even if he’s on a minutes restriction.