Chicago Bulls players fully clear the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, and the team is nearly at full strength for its upcoming games: ‘Now we can get things rolling again’

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·3 min read
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  • Zach LaVine
    Zach LaVine
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • DeMar DeRozan
    DeMar DeRozan
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Billy Donovan
    Billy Donovan
    American college basketball player, professional basketball player, point guard, college basketball coach, NCAA Tournament championship coach
  • Alize Johnson
    Alize Johnson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Devon Dotson
    Devon Dotson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Ayo Dosunmu
    Ayo Dosunmu
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Coby White
    Coby White
    American basketball player
  • Matt Thomas
    Matt Thomas
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Derrick Jones Jr.
    Derrick Jones Jr.
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

The Chicago Bulls’ long run in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols appears to have come to an end — at least for now.

The five remaining players who were in the protocols tested out, coach Billy Donovan said Thursday after practice.

Star guard Zach LaVine returned to practice along with teammates Devon Dotson, Matt Thomas, Ayo Dosunmu and Alize Johnson. DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Jones Jr., Coby White, Javonte Green and Troy Brown Jr. were cleared to return to play within the last week.

Alex Caruso (left foot sprain) and Derrick Jones Jr. (left hamstring) were the only two players not available for practice.

The Bulls have been playing with a diminished roster for more than two weeks after a COVID-19 outbreak landed 11 players in the league’s protocols in December. The team signed two players — Ersan İlyasova and Mac McClung — to short-term hardship contracts Wednesday to accommodate absences.

Now the team is prepared to return its full starting lineup to the court against the Indianapolis Pacers on Sunday at the United Center (7 p.m., NBCSCH).

“You’re thinking you don’t have enough roster spots,” Donovan said. “(Then) 24 hours later, you have maybe too many roster spots.”

After suffering through sickness with COVID-19 last season, LaVine reported no symptoms during his second round in quarantine during the last two weeks. He spent most of his quarantine in a hotel room to protect his family, filling his time playing video games and watching the Bulls.

Clearing protocols doesn’t mean players will be ready to dive back into their previous roles immediately. LaVine said he gained 6 pounds during quarantine because of a lack of activity. Johnson joked on Twitter that 10 sedentary days were “no joke” after spending most of his morning focused on conditioning.

Despite the fitness drop-off, the additional midseason rest offered a silver lining — for instance, those 10 days gave LaVine time to heal a nagging right thumb injury from earlier in the season.

Thursday was LaVine’s second day of training since clearing the COVID-19 protocols. LaVine said he’s eager to return to the lineup alongside DeMar DeRozan, who carried the Bulls with a combined 64 points in wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets this week.

If the Bulls can keep the remainder of their roster out of the protocols, they’ll be in a unique position as outbreaks continues to ravage teams throughout the NBA. More than 100 players were placed in the league’s health and safety protocols in December.

The NBA postponed a third Bulls game Wednesday when a Toronto Raptors outbreak dropped their roster below the league-minimum eight players the morning of the game.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the omicron variant was accountable for 90% of the cases in this recent outbreak, although it isn’t apparent how closely that percentage applies to the Bulls.

Despite the disruption, LaVine said the Bulls are hopeful their recent run with COVID-19 will provide a leg up through future months of the season.

“Hopefully we have herd immunity coming back and we won’t have any more guys go down in the later months,” LaVine said. “I’m just thankful everybody is OK and everybody’s families are OK. Now we can get things rolling again as a full group.”

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