Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan and guards Coby White and Javonte Greencleared the NBA's health and safety protocols Saturday and will be available to play Sunday night against the visitingLos Angeles Lakers, providing the Bulls with a few reinforcements for their first game in more than a week.
A fourth Bulls player, Derrick Jones Jr., also cleared the league's protocol this week, but was listed as questionable for Sunday on the team's injury report.
The Bulls have not played a game since a Dec. 11 loss to the Miami Heat after a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak landed 10 of their players in the league's protocols and resulted in two of their games being postponed. However, Chicago has not reported any new positive cases to players or on the coaching staff since Monday. After a week away from team activity, the Bulls returned to practice on Saturday afternoon hoping to put their season back on track.
"It's definitely exhausting just for the simple fact of missing games, watching my team go out there," DeRozan said on a video call with reporters Saturday. "It's mentally exhausting just seeing everything that's going on around the league, being affected by it. It can be frustrating, it can be confusing, it can be a lot of things at once. It's just something we've got to continue to deal with, try and maneuver around it and make the most of it when we can.''
DeRozan entered the NBA's health and safety protocols on Dec. 6 but remained asymptomatic throughout his 10-day isolation period.
"That was the crazy thing," he said. "I felt completely fine. Only symptom I had was boredom, honestly."
DeRozan said he tried to keep himself in a routine during those 10 days -- push-ups, jump rope and a stretch routine to remain as physically active as possible -- and he said he has been able to get back on the court for individual workouts the past few days.
White and Green had also been cleared to return to the team's practice facility for individual workouts this week. White, who last played on Nov. 29 and was the first Bulls player to contract the virus this month, said he first came down with a headache and fever before getting tested.
"That's how I knew I had it because I had a headache and I don't get headaches," White said. "I told people, like, bro, I've been way sicker before. In high school I had strep throat and I was way sicker. It just felt like I had a cold for like two or three days, and then after that I was just chilling the whole time."
The Bulls still have five players on the roster remaining in the league's protocol. Zach LaVine, Troy Brown Jr., Ayo Dosunmu and Alize Johnson will all miss Sunday's game and are expected to be out until after Christmas.
Matt Thomas is eligible to return after completing his 10-day isolation period, but he was listed as doubtful on the team's injury report. And while Chicago had another player, Stanley Johnson, enter the league's protocol this month, he was only signed to a 10-day contract for a hardship exception to aid the Bulls' ailing roster.
The Bulls reached full vaccination as a team earlier this season and a few players have received booster shots, which coach Billy Donovan pointed to earlier this month as to why so many of their players experienced mild or no symptoms. However, White's positive test result on Dec. 1 triggered daily testing around the team and soon the coronavirus had spread to 10 players in two weeks.
It mirrored the trend going around the NBA and other sports leagues. As of Saturday morning, 70 players had entered the NBA's health and safety protocols since the start of December, a number that has continued to climb rapidly in recent days.
"When it started happening with us I was confident in knowing that it wasn't just going to be us," DeRozan said. "I think our main thing was just getting guys back, hoping that guys didn't have to do the whole 10-day quarantine, trying to get guys back as quickly as possible.
"That was one thing I was worried about, just making sure these guys are healthy, not just our players. A lot of staff, lot of announcers, everybody that was affected by it. Just getting them back healthy first and foremost was our main concern and we go from there."