Chicago Bulls players have cleared NBA’s COVID protocols and are eligible to play

CHICAGO — All Bulls players have cleared health and safety protocols and will be available to play in the team’s next game against the Indiana Pacers, coach Billy Donovan said Thursday.

The Bulls had as many as 10 players in the league’s protocols at the start of last week, which led to the NBA’s first two postponed games of the season. Chicago had a third game postponed Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors because Toronto did have enough available players, which gave the Bulls an opportunity to get whole after their roster was depleted by COVID-19.

“Hopefully we have herd immunity coming back and we won’t have any more guys go down in the later months,” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said after practice Thursday. “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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LaVine rejoined the team for practice Thursday after completing his mandatory 10-day quarantine. He remained asymptomatic during his stint in the league’s protocol, but checked into a hotel room to isolate from his wife for a week full of video games and Netflix.

LaVine, who also missed 11 games last season in the league’s health and safety protocol, said he was able to maintain a workout routine this time and gained six pounds during quarantine. He returned to the court for individual work earlier this week.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s the world we’re living in now,” LaVine said. “A lot of guys and teams are dealing with it. I’m just thankful I only missed two games.”

Devon Dotson, who entered health and safety protocols on Tuesday, had two negative PCR tests in 24 hours and practiced with the team Thursday.

Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., Matt Thomas and Alize Johnson also were cleared to play.

The only players not available for Chicago’s next game are Alex Caruso, who the team plans to reevaluate in 7-10 days after spraining his left foot during Monday’s game, and Derrick Jones Jr., who injured his left hamstring during Sunday’s game.

The Bulls signed two players — Ersan Ilyasova and Mac McClung — to a 10-day contract via hardship exception before Wednesday’s game got postponed. Once players who exit the league’s health and safety protocols are cleared medically to play, the hardship exception is terminated for that replacement player, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The player will still receive the full 10-day salary.

“We’re starting to get a little bit more whole,” Donovan said. “We went from trying to add players to our team to looking at what our roster is going to look like going forward. … You’re thinking you don’t have enough roster spots and 24 hours later, you have maybe too many roster spots. We’ll have to figure all that out.”