Bulls’ Zach LaVine expected to miss several games in coronavirus protocol
The team was expected to practice Thursday but was quickly shut down for health and safety reasons. The Sun-Times confirmed that LaVine was put into the protocol.
Coby White appears to be lost in his bench role.
Lauri Markkanen looks like he already signed elsewhere.
Patrick Williams seems to have gone headfirst into the rookie wall.
Factor in two embarrassing losses in less than a week to the last-place Timberwolves and the tanking Magic, and, well, there’s seemingly no way things could get worse for the Bulls.
Then Thursday hit.
A noon practice was quickly cancelled after Zach LaVine entered the NBA’s health and safety protocol with a positive coronavirus test, according to a source.
The hope is LaVine only will be out a handful of days, but with the Bulls scheduled to play five games in the next seven days and with only 18 games left in the regular season, that could be the difference between holding on to the final play-in spot or sitting in a lottery position and praying for lottery luck.
The Bulls traded their 2021 first-round pick to the Magic in the Nikola Vucevic deal, but it’s protected if it’s a top-four selection.
Anything after No. 4 would leave the Bulls in the worst possible scenario — no meaningful games to play, no meaningful draft asset coming in.
And if going without LaVine’s 27.5 points and 5.1 assists wasn’t bad enough, the positive test also took away a key practice day for coach Billy Donovan as he tries to repair this sinking ship on the fly.
With games on Friday and Saturday, it’s unlikely that Sunday will be a practice opportunity. Then the Bulls play in Boston on Monday.
That leaves a possible Tuesday practice in Cleveland, another back-to-back and a rest day Friday.
But one of Donovan’s refreshing traits is he won’t let the excuses become bigger than the results. He made that clear Wednesday night after a lethargic first three quarters in the loss to the Magic. The Bulls did make a push the last nine minutes, but they came up short.
“We were getting stops and we were flying around and we were covering for each other, and, like, where was that for the first three quarters?’’ Donovan said. “I don’t think we can make excuses for COVID, four [games] in five nights, we’ve been on the road . . . it’s the NBA. All we have to do is worry about basketball.’’
Now they have even more to worry about.
It’s almost as if Donovan is running out of fingers to plug up all the holes in the leaking dam.
“We know we’re a better team, but it doesn’t matter how much talent you have,’’ LaVine said of the latest loss. “It’s how you go out there and compete. Obviously, we’re trying to battle through some comfortability things, some injury things. Other teams don’t care.’’
LaVine does, which makes the timing of his setback so unfortunate. As the face of the franchise, he knows he’s partially to blame for the Bulls’ predicament, and he would’ve welcomed the opportunity to get them out of it.
That no longer is an immediate option, as some players have missed multiple weeks because of the virus.
“Frustration has to turn into something on the court,’’ LaVine said. “You have to put it together sooner or later. You don’t look forward in the calendar, but obviously these games are against us. We’re talking big game. We’ve got to go out there and walk it, too.’’