Bulls’ Zach LaVine expected to miss several games in coronavirus protocolon April 15, 2021 at 8:33 pm

Guard Coby White appears lost in his bench role.

Forward Lauri Markkanen looks like he already signed elsewhere.

Patrick Williams seems to have gone head first into the rookie wall.

Then factor in two embarrassing losses in less than a week to last-place Minnesota and a tanking Orlando team, and well, there’s seemingly no way it could have gotten worse.

Then Thursday hit.

Scheduled to practice at noon, that was quickly cancelled when the Sun-Times confirmed an ESPN report that guard Zach LaVine had gone into the NBA’s health and safety protocol with a positive coronavirus test, according to a source.

What that means immediately for one of the elite offensive players in the game, is optimistically the hope is LaVine is out for a handful of days, but with the Bulls scheduled to play five games in the next seven days and only 18 games left in the regular season, that could be the difference between holding onto the final play-in spot or sitting in a lottery position and praying for lottery luck.

The Bulls traded their first-round pick to the Magic in the Nikola Vucevic deal, but it is protected Nos. 1 through 4.

Anything higher than the fourth overall pick, it goes Orlando’s way, leaving the Bulls in the worst-possible scenario – no meaningful games to play, no meaningful draft asset coming in.

And if going without LaVine’s 27.5 points and 5.1 assists per game wasn’t bad enough, the positive test also took away a key practice day for coach Billy Donovan to continue trying to repair this sinking ship on the fly.

With back-to-backs Friday and Saturday, it’s unlikely Sunday will be a practice opportunity, and then on Monday the Bulls play in Boston.

That leaves a possible Tuesday practice in Cleveland, another back-to-back, and a rest day on Friday.

What’s been refreshing about Donovan, however, is he won’t let the excuses become bigger than the results. He made that very clear Wednesday night after a lethargic first three quarters in the Magic loss, before the team made a push the final nine minutes of the game before coming up short.

“We were getting stops and we were flying around and we were covering for each other, and like where was that for the first three quarters?” Donovan said Wednesday. “I don’t think we can make excuses for Covid, four [games] in five nights, we’ve been on the road … it’s the NBA. All we have to do is worry about basketball.”

Now they have more to worry about.

It’s almost like Donovan is running out of fingers to plug up all the holes in the leaking dam.

“We know we’re a better team, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much talent you have,” LaVine said of the latest loss. “It’s how you go out there and compete. Obviously, we’re trying to battle through some comfortability things, some injury things. Other teams don’t care.”

LaVine does, which makes the timing of him being sidelined so unfortunate. As the face of this franchise, he knows it was also partially on him for being in this position, and he would have welcomed the opportunity to get them out of it.

That no longer is an immediate option, with some players missing multiple weeks in the wake of dealing with the virus.

“Frustration has to turn into something on the court,” LaVine said. “You have to put it together sooner or later. You don’t look forward in the calendar, but obviously these games are against us. We’re talking big game. We’ve got to go out there and walk it too.”

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