The return of the Bulls’ Zach LaVine could be delayed even longerJoe Cowleyon April 25, 2021 at 1:11 am

When LaVine first went into the NBA’s health and safety protocol the hope was he would miss eight games at most. That now sounds like a best-case scenario that is fading away each day.

When Zach LaVine first went into the NBA health and safety protocol back on April 15, the hope was the guard would miss at most the next eight games.

That hope sounded dwindling on Saturday.

As expected, LaVine, who did test positive for coronavirus, as reported by the Sun-Times, did not make this three-game road trip. According to coach Billy Donovan, however, he is still unable to even go to the Advocate Facility by himself to at least get shots up and work on his conditioning.

“He’s basically by himself,’’ Donovan said. “He’s not doing anything like that right now, no.’’

What that means as far as previous cases, is that LaVine is still in the process of having to pass consecutive testing, and then has to get into the part of the protocol where he has to pass the cardiac testing. The idea of him getting through all that by Thursday, and then be ready to return to the court on Friday, when the Bulls host Milwaukee, it seems to be a stretch. Not impossible, but when looking at the timelines of other players that were at LaVine’s current stage, definitely a very tight fit.

“[The league is] working with [Bulls] medical,’’ Donovan said. “There’s probably some things he’s going to have to continually go through.

“But outside of that I really don’t have a lot of information. Zach will probably have to go through some checkpoints in dealing with all this, but in terms of a timeline I just don’t have one.’’

If the Bucks game is in danger of not happening for LaVine, then the back-to-back in Atlanta the following day is also in jeopardy.

The Bulls will have an off day on May 2, before hosting Philadelphia the next night, so that might be a more realistic window. That would have also meant that LaVine misses four more crucial games, having to jump right back into the fire – conditioning there or not – with just eight games left in the regular season.

The good news for the Bulls is LaVine is a workout nut throughout the year and prides himself in always staying in shape.

Donovan, who has spoken to LaVine throughout the entire ordeal, said it’s the mental aspect of being isolated that his the All-Star guard’s biggest battle right now.

“He’s holding tight,’’ Donovan said. “The isolation part of it is really challenging for anybody. He’s by himself, and you’re away from the team, and I think the camaraderie of teammates and being around guys you’re playing with on a nightly basis and travelling with, and then you’re separated, it’s a lot. It’s kind of like it all of a sudden comes to a stop.

“I know he misses the games. It’s unfortunate that he can’t be, but different players got to go through the protocol and some guys are out longer than others, some guys it hasn’t been that long, so I think with him we’re just waiting to get more understanding from the league in terms of the next steps that he’ll have to take.’’

Med center

Wing Troy Brown Jr. missed his third consecutive game on Saturday, still dealing with a sore left ankle. As far as a timetable for his return, the Bulls could have more clarity on Sunday, when they are finally able to get a practice in.

As for rookie Patrick Williams, he was listed as having left heel soreness, but was available and did start against the Heat.

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