The Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-103 in Coby White’s first NBA start on Tuesday, and then one night later the league suspended the 2019-20 season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
Zach LaVine’s reaction said it all:
The Bulls had traveled to Orlando on Wednesday in preparation for a two-game swing in Florida against the Magic and Miami Heat, but they have since returned to Chicago in the wake of the suspension. The franchise released a statement on Thursday that said no players had experienced any COVID-19 symptoms yet:
The NBA notified all 30 teams about a handful of new policies effective through March 16:
While the NBA has suspended the season due to this unprecedented situation, the current hope is it will be able to resume at some point. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Thursday morning he doesn’t expect a full cancellation of the season, and he even suggested games could go into August. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on TNT Thursday evening that the hiatus will be at least 30 days, but it’s too early to tell beyond that and a cancellation is still on the table.
If the NBA does restart the 2019-20 campaign as hoped, it’s unclear just what the remainder of the season would look like. Would the league try to finish off the rest of the regular season as is? Would they truncate the remainder of the regular season? Would they just take the current playoff picture and go right into the postseason?
There’s obviously a lot at play here, including gobs of money. Schedules will have to be changed no matter what, and the 2020-21 season will likely be affected in some way. Next season’s salary cap will also be impacted, with the financial hit looking much worse if games resume but fans still aren’t allowed in. It’s no surprise owners want to finish this season out:
On the fan attendance front, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker spoke to Chicago owners about not having any home games with fans until May 1:
This could impact the Bulls, but the whole situation is fluid due to the unique circumstances.
As it stands at the time of this stoppage, the Bulls hold a 22-43 record and sit eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re No. 7 in the lottery standings, a spot which carries a 7.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a 32.0% chance of getting a top-four pick.
The playoffs were already out of the question before the suspension, but Chicago was going to use the rest of the season to get White more time in the starting lineup with the rest of the core. LaVine was close to returning from a quad injury and joining White in the starting lineup.
Depending on which direction the NBA takes, we may still see LaVine and White share a starting backcourt in the 2019-20 season. It will also be interesting to see if Kris Dunn becomes available to return after suffering a sprained MCL on Jan. 31. Dunn was recently ruled out for the season, but an extended hiatus would give him more time to heal as he gets set to hit restricted free agency this summer.
Luke Kornet is also currently on the mend from a foot and ankle injury. The Bulls big man was given a recovery timetable of 6-8 weeks in late February, so there would have to be a lengthy delay for him to be ready again.
One player who definitely won’t be returning regardless is Chandler Hutchison. The second-year forward will undergo shoulder surgery next week and miss 12-16 weeks of action. The youngster also had his rookie season cut short by injury, so it has been a rough start to his career.
There’s also the whole situation with Bulls head coach Jim Boylen and the front office. There are rumored to be changes afoot in the front office, and the expectation is Boylen is on his way out. These potential changes will now be delayed, giving ownership more time to come to final decisions.
Of course, the most important matter right now is everybody’s health and safety, so basketball is on the back burner right now as the NBA navigates this pandemic.