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Lakers, Bulls start time delayed as Chicago deals with COVID-19 outbreak

The Chicago Bulls are the first team to have a COVID outbreak leading to games being postponed this season. Their next game, against the Lakers, has now been delayed.

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Lakers Bulls at Staples Center

The NBA has pushed back the start of Sunday’s game between the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers from its originally scheduled time of 12:30 p.m. PT to 5 p.m. PT, a response to the Bulls’ ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The Chicago Bulls’ ongoing issues with COVID-19 in recent weeks came to a head on Monday, when the league announced the first postponements of the season. Each of the Bulls’ next two games — against the Pistons on Tuesday and in Toronto on Thursday — were postponed after Alize Johnson became the 10th Bulls player to enter health and safety protocols.

With the Lakers game next on the schedule for the Bulls, it was immediately thrown into potential jeopardy after the postponement of games this week. In the best-case scenario, the time between games sees the Bulls get healthier, and they’ll be playing their first game in over a week with multiple players coming off a long layoff while in health and safety protocols. In the worst-case scenario, it’ll be another postponement for the Bulls, ending the Lakers’ three-game road trip early before a potentially pivotal game against the Suns back in Los Angeles.

Based on previous outbreaks last season, it would be unlikely that the Bulls would be able to go from outbreak to playing games again inside of a seven-day window.

Last season, the Washington Wizards’ COVID-19 outbreak was one of the most serious, as the team went 12 days without being able to step on the court, missing six games consecutively in that span. The Grizzlies also had six games postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, with five of those games coming consecutively from Jan. 20 through Jan. 27. In total, the team went 12 days between games. San Antonio was sidelined for 10 days when they had an outbreak last season, resulting in four games missed.

Considering the magnitude of the Bulls’ current outbreak, it’s fair to compare them with some of the worst cases last season, and note that returning back to play after just seven days would be by far the quickest turnaround of any team previously in a similar position.

For Chicago, the other players currently in health and safety protocols besides Alize Johnson include Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, former South Bay Laker Stanley Johnson and former Lakers Summer League player Matt Thomas. Stanley Johnson’s case, in particular, represented an example of how bad things had gotten in Chicago, as he was signed as a replacement player after an initial COVID outbreak but never played a game with the team before entering health and safety protocols himself.

With just shy of a dozen players unavailable, the Bulls roster was down to eight players heading into the week, with a host of those available players signed as replacements for injured players or players who were in the health and safety protocols. As a result, the league opted to postpone the team’s games this week and allow the franchise some time to get its feet back under itself.

So while nothing has been determined yet beyond this delay in start time, based on precedent from last season amidst previous outbreaks, it appears extremely possible that the Lakers and Bulls game will eventually be postponed as well.

Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for the latest. This story may update with more information.

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