(670 The Score) Bulls starting big man Lauri Markkanen and reserve guard Ryan Arcidiacono returned to a full team practice Tuesday for the first time since they landed in the NBA health and safety protocol on Dec. 31.
Markkanen and Arcidiacono each continually tested negative for COVID-19, but they were deemed close contacts of forward Chandler Hutchison and guard Tomas Satoransky, who each tested positive at different times. All four players have missed the last seven games, with Hutchison and Satoransky currently still away from the team and in the protocol because of their longer recovery period after testing positive.
Markkanen, Arcidiacono and Satoransky shared a long van ride back from Washington D.C. to Chicago that started Dec. 31, when the Bulls won a road game against the Wizards that they all missed. Hutchison remained in Washington because he had tested positive, while the other three hadn’t. Satoransky later did test positive, which caused Markkanen and Arcidiacono to brace themselves for the same fate after the shared ride back with a private driver that returned them to Chicago on New Year’s morning.
“It was frustrating, but I try to keep a positive mindset that I can’t control that kind of stuff that kind of happened,” Markkanen said of what it was like to quarantine away from the team. “We just got to get through this. We knew it’s not going to be perfect, COVID-wise, this season, so these things happen. Unfortunately it happened so early, and I was feeling good. But we can’t change that anymore. Just got to move on, and come back and play well again.’’
Markkanen and Arcidiacono went through conditioning workouts in recent days as the Bulls (4-7) completed a West Coast road trip. The Bulls’ scheduled home game against the Celtics on Tuesday was postponed due to COVID-19 issues, with Boston being hit so hard it wasn’t going to have the required eight players available to play.
Asked about his conditioning ramp-up and the workload that he could carry when the Bulls return to action against the Thunder on Friday, Markkanen responded he’d be “good to go.” He was off to a strong start, averaging 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 50.0% in the first four games.
“It's good to have them back,” coach Billy Donovan said. “They were able to do a little bit of work while we were out on our West Coast trip. They've certainly got to get their timing back five-on-five. I thought both of them physically in terms of their conditioning was very, very good. I think both guys would probably agree, at least I'm just going off what they said to me even yesterday that they feel like they need some time to get their timing back playing five-on-five.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.