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Sports Saturday

Bulls dealing with Nikola Vucevic being sidelined in NBA’s health protocol

The big man tested positive for the coronavirus just before the team was leaving for the West Coast trip Thursday. Zach LaVine is hoping for Vucevic’s quick recovery and that it’s an isolated case.

SAN FRANCISCO — Bulls guard Zach LaVine is taking the “fingers crossed’’ approach. Considering all the obstacles thrown his way since late last season, it’s as good a strategy as any.

On Friday, the Bulls were still processing All-Star center Nikola Vucevic’s positive test for the coronavirus on Thursday, which immediately sent him into the NBA’s health and safety protocol. They’ll be without him at least for the duration of this road trip, and there are concerns that other members of the team could also end up testing positive.

LaVine knows all too well what that’s like. He was sidelined last April after a positive test, unable to help the Bulls in their faint hopes of reaching the playoffs.

“Yeah, it sucks, man,” LaVine said after the shootaround Friday morning. “Obviously, [we’re] just wishing for [Vucevic’s] health, first off, for him and his family. And then we’re just going to have to battle and work this out without him until he gets back. Big blow, obviously. He’s one of the main pieces of our team. I just feel like that last game [against the Mavericks on Wednesday], he was getting his rhythm back and everything like that. So it just sucks.

“We’ve been wearing our masks a lot. Obviously, we have got a lot of tests done the last couple days, and it seems like everybody has been safe. Fingers crossed.”

Coach Billy Donovan, who spoke with Vucevic on Thursday and exchanged texts with him Friday before the shootaround, said he was only experiencing cold-like symptoms.

From a basketball standpoint, the Bulls plan to handle Vucevic’s absence with a mix-and-match approach based on matchups. Against the Warriors, Donovan went with Tony Bradley at center. Alize Johnson will also factor in while Vucevic is sidelined.

Staying mum

The Bulls were aware of a report that the NBA is close to announcing a ruling on tampering allegations related to the August sign-and-trade for guard Lonzo Ball, but they continue to withhold comment on the matter. It’s unclear if that will change if a punishment comes down.

The NBA is investigating the sign-and-trades of Ball and the Heat’s Kyle Lowry, with the front offices of four teams under scrutiny: the Bulls, Heat, Pelicans and Raptors.