Two more Bulls players -- Ayo Dosunmu and Stanley Johnson -- landed in the NBA's health and safety protocols Saturday, bringing Chicago's total to seven players sidelined amid a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak.
Johnson just signed a 10-day contract with the Bulls on Thursday after the team was granted a hardship exception to add another roster spot with so many players out. However, he and Dosunmu, who started the prior two games, missed Saturday's 118-92 loss to the Miami Heat.
"We need a hardship for a hardship right now," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said before the game.
Since the start of the outbreak, the Bulls have begun testing players and coaches multiple times per day to try to monitor the spread of the virus. Chicago's G-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, postponed their games on Saturday and Sunday because they didn't have eight players available due to positive tests within the team.
Jones entered the protocol on Friday while he was with the Bulls in Miami, but Donovan confirmed Saturday that Jones had returned to Chicago to begin his isolation period. After landing in health and safety protocols, players must remain in isolation for at least 10 days or until they return two negative PCR tests in a 24-hour period.
"Maybe some of it's because of the vaccination, we've got a lot of guys sitting at home with no symptoms right now," Donovan said. "That's obviously a good thing, too, because I think when guys have gone through a real difficulty of getting really, really sick, it's really made it a lot harder for them coming back.
"We do have some guys that have felt under the weather, we have guys that have very, very mild symptoms, and some guys that just don't have any."
The Bulls have not been the only team trying to manage outbreaks. The Charlotte Hornets, who played the Bulls at the United Center about two weeks ago, have five players in the health and safety protocols.
Others who recently landed in the league's COVID protocols include Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma, Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle and Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri.
Both the Heat and Bulls have been fully vaccinated and some players on each team have received a booster shot.
The Heat have started to ramp up testing for players and staff before and after games; they learned hours before tipoff Saturday that forward Caleb Martin needed to enter health and safety protocols. A few Heat players even wore masks on the court while warming up Saturday.
"It's kind of the world we live in right now," Heat guard Kyle Lowry said after Saturday's win. "It's tough for a guy like Caleb to be going through this situation, it's tough for the Bulls to be going through this situation, it's tough for the real world to be going through this situation. The basketball [side] -- we want health. We want our guys to be healthy. There's still people getting sick by this virus and it's something we just can't control right now. We've got to find ways to be safe."
As the NBA navigates another season amid the pandemic, one major difference from last year is that, so far, the league has not needed to postpone any games.
The Bulls still had 11 players available Saturday night in Miami, including two two-way players, another in Alfonzo McKinnie, who signed a 10-day contract Friday, and guard Alex Caruso, who played after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury.
That gave them well above the eight-player minimum the NBA used as a threshold to postpone games last season.
"I would totally understand if somebody on our team's like, 'Listen, I don't feel comfortable with this. We're together, we're practicing and I don't feel comfortable playing,'" Donovan said. "We haven't had any of that, but certainly COVID has impacted people in a lot of different ways, and I think people have, at least inside of our team, have had loved ones that have really suffered from it.
"It is a scary time. Our guys have really done a good job of just trying to put their best foot forward to try to really stay locked in on, 'This is what I have to do,' or, 'This is what I can control,' and try to move forward with it."