Lonzo Ball is expected to be in the Chicago Bulls starting lineup tonight for the first time since December 20th.
The team’s point guard entered the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols on December 26th, and he was removed from the official injury report ahead of Monday’s meeting with the Orlando Magic. Ball has missed the team’s last five games due to a positive test, but he informed NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson that he experienced no symptoms during his time away from the team. Ball has been able to work out at the Advocate Center since Friday.
The Bulls may have gone undefeated in Ball’s absence, but his return will allow a defense that has given up roughly 113 points a night since his departure to exhale. Chicago has held the 21st defensive rating in the league since Ball and Caruso were taken out of the rotation, dropping them to the 12th-overall defense on the season.
Lonzo Ball is out of NBA Health and Safety protocols and is available to play tonight vs. Orlando. pic.twitter.com/sY6fNpNWbd
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 3, 2022
Also no longer listed in health and safety protocols is recent-signing Alfonzo McKinnie. The veteran forward played on two 10-day contracts for Chicago before the team gave him Alize Johnson’s full-time roster spot. Shortly after agreeing to terms, however, McKinnie entered protocols alongside Tony Bradley.
Bradley remains listed as OUT for tonight’s game at the United Center, but Johnson did report that Bradley could be seen getting shots up after practice, implying the big man could be cleared soon than later for a return to action. Considering the health of Tyler Cook (ankle) and Javonte Green (shoulder) remains up in the air right now, a quick return for both frontcourt players could be much-needed.
Billy Donovan is talking to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine as Bulls shootaround ends.
Tony Bradley also is getting up shots.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 3, 2022
Head coach Billy Donovan was able to make his return to the building, as well. The Bulls head coach first entered protocols on December 24th, forcing coach Chris Fleming to take over as the interim man in charge. The well-respected assistant helped the Bulls go 5-0 in Donovan’s absence.
The hope now is we can see a practically fully-healthy Bulls team by the end of this week. After tonight’s battle with Orlando, Chicago will have three full days off to hopefully help heal players like Bradley, Alex Caruso (foot), and Javonte Green (shoulder).