COVID has turned into an unavoidable storm cloud for NBA teams, as over 100 players have entered the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols during the last three weeks, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes. Commissioner Adam Silver said on Tuesday the new Omicron variant makes up 90 percent of the league’s current cases. And while this has caused team after team to play excruciatingly shorthanded, when they play at all, Silver made clear there is no current plan to press pause on the season.
Instead, the league hopes to fight its way through a slew of positive cases and thus depleted rosters. They have tweaked rules behind the scenes and have even neared an agreement to shorten the quarantine period required for positive players. This has all made for a hectic couple of weeks, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Holmes pulled back the curtain to give us a closer look at how players, coaches, and front-office execs have handled this logistical nightmare.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 23, 2021
Unfortunately, the Chicago Bulls were plenty present in the telling of this story. The organization experienced an outbreak that caused 11 players to enter the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, and just now have the Bulls found themselves out the other end.
While Nikola Vucevic was the first player to test positive for the team this season, it was Coby White that jumpstarted the most recent string of positive tests. After White entered protocols on December 1st, the team chose to start routine testing to promptly catch any other cases. Once they started this process and began to find a sizable number of asymptomatic cases, they started to wonder why other teams weren’t doing the same.
On a weekly league medical call on Dec. 14, one team health official said the Bulls expressed frustration that they had a number of asymptomatic player cases, with each required to be sidelined for 10 days. Given the urgency of their situation, the Bulls were testing everyone, but they asked, why wasn’t every other team doing the same?
The Bulls believed there were more asymptomatic players out there, and that the league, by not mandating daily testing, wasn’t doing enough to try and find them, a source said. To the Bulls, it felt unfair — that they were suffering from a competitive disadvantage.
Two days after Chicago’s complaints, we did see the NBA and NBPA agree on increased testing around the league for the holiday season (December 26th-January 8th). They also re-enforced mask-wearing in a number of indoor settings. The only players who will receive any kind of exception will be those who have been boosted for two-plus weeks, according to Wojnarowski. Those players will not have to undergo gameday testing.
We also learned thanks to ESPN’s reporting that Arturas Karnisovas gave Sacramento Kings’ GM Monte McNair a “buckle up” warning when he heard of head coach Alvin Gentry’s positive test. Unfortunately, Karnisovas gets to claim himself as one of the more experienced executives when it comes to dealing with an outbreak this season, one “that a member of the organization compared to “getting the call from the grim reaper,” according to ESPN.
Anyway, while the NBA has yet to make any permanent changes, the Bulls have seemingly, directly and indirectly, played a role in a lot of the dialogue around the league. Part of that is surely due to the fact that they have dealt with one of the biggest outbreaks, but I do think this also demonstrates how involved this Bulls’ front office tends to be.
Karnisovas and Co. will make their voices heard when the time is right, and we saw another example of this was when reports first surfaced that the organization made several appeals for the league to postpone their games. I don’t know, if you ask me, this is just the kind of weight we want to see a big market franchise carry. Whether it be transactional situations or league-wide decision-making, the Bulls should be this involved.