Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols Monday and missed the team’s 109-97 home victory over the Denver Nuggets.
DeRozan is the third Bulls player currently in the health and safety protocols, joining Coby White and Javonte Green, both of whom tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
“I know there’s probably a lot more questions about, ‘Is he positive, is he negative?’ I don’t even know yet,” Donovan said before Monday’s game. “This is obviously coming from the league, and we’ll have more information going forward. This just transpired this afternoon, so I can’t really confirm or deny if it’s a false positive or is positive. I just don’t know right now.”
The Bulls announced Tuesday that DeRozan will not travel to Cleveland for Wednesday’s game against the Cavaliers.
Players who test positive are required to miss at least 10 days unless they return multiple negative tests in a 24-hour window.
DeRozan participated at Bulls shootaround Monday morning before his test results came back later in the afternoon.
In his absence, the shorthanded Bulls still picked up their fourth straight win despite playing without DeRozan for the first time this season, which prompted a call from Zach LaVine immediately after the game.
“I let him know we got his back,” said LaVine, who scored 32 points and dished out a season-high eight assists. “Fingers crossed for his test tomorrow. He’s in good spirits, feeling good. Definitely called him just to say what’s up to him and celebrate the win with him.”
The Bulls are fully vaccinated as a team, but due to recent outbreaks, they will test players multiple times per day for COVID-19, according to Donovan. Chicago hosted the Hornets at the United Center last Monday before four Hornets players — LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee and Jaden McDaniels — entered the league’s health and safety protocols over the weekend.
“It’s pretty clear from a national standpoint; forget the NBA, people that are vaccinated are getting COVID,” Donovan said. “That’s happened. I think because of the NBA being a small business, so to speak, with players that have got national recognition, you see it a lot more. But I think for people that have been vaccinated that are just out there as citizens, they’re testing positive too.
“I don’t think anybody’s under the premise of just because you’re going to be vaccinated that you have no chance of getting COVID. … It’s just what we’re all going through.”
In addition to the three players in the health and safety protocols, the Bulls also will be without guard Alex Caruso for at least a week while he recovers from a right hamstring injury. Caruso underwent an MRI on Monday, which Donovan said did not reveal “anything significant,” but the team did not want to risk any further injury.
Caruso is scheduled to be re-evaluated in a week.
“You just don’t want to have something that’s going to prolong this thing for weeks on end,” Donovan said. “How it gets addressed and handled now is the most important thing.”
Despite missing four rotation players Monday night, the Bulls managed to keep rolling, winning for the fifth time in the past six games.
DeRozan was recognized earlier in the day as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for averaging 30.3 points and 5.7 rebounds and shooting 58.7% from the field while the Bulls went 3-0 last week. He is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 26.4 points per game in his first season with the Bulls.
To replace DeRozan’s production, a few players stepped up for Chicago.
Rookie Ayo Dosunmu made his first career start, played 41 minutes and collected 11 points with eight assists. Both Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“It’s a new team, man,” LaVine said. “I tried to say it at the beginning of the year. This isn’t last year.
“You’re not going to replace what [DeRozan] does, especially at the level of play that he’s playing at right now. Guys will step up and we can compete for each other and still be a really good team. I think we showed that tonight.”