NBA’s COVID-19 issues continue as Rick Carlisle enters protocols, Bulls outbreak grows

The NBA’s issues with the COVID-19 pandemic are getting worse.

As of Thursday afternoon, two organizations were dealing with team-wide outbreaks and a coach joined several others across the league by entering the league’s health and safety protocols.

Even though about 97% of the league is vaccinated, and about 60% of players have received a booster shot, the NBA has still lost as many people due to the coronavirus as last season.

Here’s the latest across the NBA.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle in COVID protocols

Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Carlisle entered protocols on Wednesday night after their 122-102 win over the New York Knicks. Carlisle has not said whether or not he tested positive for COVID-19, though he is both fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, according to ESPN.

Macmahon reported Friday morning that Carlisle did test positive on a PCR test and will miss "multiple games."

Carlisle, 62, is in his first season with the Pacers after spending the past 13 with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Pacers canceled Thursday’s practice out of “an abundance of caution.” They are scheduled to host the Mavericks on Friday — which would have been Carlisle’s first time coaching against his former team. If he can’t coach, assistant coach Lloyd Pierce will lead the Pacers against the Mavericks and moving forward.

Head coach Rick Carlisle of the Indiana Pacers
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle entered health and safety protocols on Wednesday night. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Raptors president Masai Ujiri tests positive

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri announced on Thursday afternoon that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ujiri, who said he is both fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, said he tested positive after attending an event on Sunday.

"I am now at home, observing the safety protocols by self-isolating for 10 days, monitoring for symptoms and undergoing testing, and I encourage everyone who attended to please do the same," he said in a statement, in part. "We don't want to live in fear of this virus, but COVID is a persistent enemy. Together, we'll will defeat it."

The Raptors canceled practice on Thursday out of caution. They are set to host the Knicks on Friday, and then the Kings on Monday.

The NBA warned players earlier this week that any unvaccinated player with temporary visa status will be unable to re-enter the United States. Unvaccinated players won’t be able to play games in Toronto against the Raptors starting Jan. 15, as a new Canadian law requires all visitors to be fully vaccinated.

Bulls' outbreak still growing, lose 5th player

Chicago forward Derrick Jones Jr. entered health and safety protocols on Thursday, which made him the fifth Bulls player in nine days to do so.

Jones joined Matt Thomas, DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green and Coby White in health and safety protocols. The Bulls confirmed that both Green and White tested positive, but did not comment on the other three players.

The Bulls are fully vaccinated. Players who enter health and safety protocols must isolate for 10 days or until they return two negative PCR test results at least 24 hours apart.

The Bulls lost 115-92 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. Jones had 11 points and two rebounds in 28 minutes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. They are set to travel to take on the Miami Heat on Saturday before returning home next week.

"I have not heard anything along those lines," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Monday on the possibility of games being postponed, via ESPN. "I think the biggest question that comes up is if you have something that runs through a team and you have multiple players that are not able to compete, is there enough players for the team to go out there and function.

"I do think the most important thing for our league is the health and safety of all the players. I think our guys have done a good job of following and doing what we're asked to be done from the league and from the medical side. It's just, I think, this time of year. There's certainly been a spike in this, but I have not heard anything as it relates to them going into a situation of shutting down the league for a period of time. I have not heard that."

Hornets' outbreak continues

The Bulls aren’t the only team dealing with an outbreak this week.

The Charlotte Hornets are still down five players to health and safety protocols.

LaMelo Ball, Jalen McDaniels, Mason Plumlee, Terry Rozier and Ish Smith have all been sidelined in Charlotte, and none of them will play on Friday against the Sacramento Kings.

The Hornets played the Bulls early last week, and lost the first wave of players shortly after that game. The Bulls’ first positive test came days later.

The Hornets fell 110-106 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. They will host the Kings on Saturday before traveling to Dallas on Monday.

Other notable COVID issues

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant entered health and safety protocols on Wednesday. Morant was sidelined with a knee injury anyway, and is expected to miss “a couple of weeks.” It’s unclear when he will be able to return, though this could set him back a bit. Fellow Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks entered protocols on Thursday afternoon.

As of Thursday afternoon, the United States was averaging more than 121,000 new cases of the coronavirus each day, according to The New York Times. About 72% of adults 18 and older are fully vaccinated, too.