Nov 12, 2021

11/12/21: A big test for the Bulls gets tougher without Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic Chicago Bulls
(USA Today Sports)

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Bulls head west without Nikola Vucevic

The bags for the Bulls road trip were already loaded with a high degree of difficulty, but they were squeezed even further with Thursday's news.

Center Nikola Vucevic tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in safety protocols — a result that will cause him to miss the next 10 days or until he can produce two negative tests within a 24-hour period.

The news is a bummer for anyone who thought we'd finally be able to grade the Bulls without a curve as they faced their toughest road trip of the season — a five-city journey that starts in Golden State tonight and hits both Los Angeles teams before finishing with Portland and Denver.

It's also a reminder that for all the hope the Bulls have given us, it's still an impossibly long season that will come with its share of disappointment and setbacks, particularly as the pandemic continues to hang around.

I have to say, though: I was hoping Patrick Williams' wrist injury would've appeased the angry basketball gods until Presidents Day, at least.

They instead took Vucevic a few days after he guarded Joel Embiid for two straight games before the 76ers star hit protocol himself.

The Bulls will get through this, but heading west without Vucevic is more annoying than not packing enough underwear or toothpaste.

Vucevic remains the hardest to replace player on the roster. Tony Bradley should assume his starting spot and Alize Johnson will get more minutes than his talent level warrants.

Marko Simonovic was also called up from the Windy City Bulls, though Billy Donovan's recent comments on the young big man make it seem like he won't be anything other than an insurance policy.

The timing is also poor as Vucevic just had his best game of the year and might have been gaining some momentum.

After a discouraging performance against Brooklyn, Vucevic scored 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

Now the Bulls will most likely have to navigate the three California teams — and possibly Portland and Denver — without him.

Today's schedule
High Point at Northwestern (7, BTN+)
Coyotes at Hawks (7:30, ESPN+)
Arkansas State at Illinois (8, BTN+)
Bulls at Warriors (9, ESPN)

FGCU at Loyola (1, NBCSCH)
Central Michigan at DePaul (5, FS2)

Red Stars at Portland (4:30 CBS Sports Network)
Bulls at Clippers (8:30, NBCSCH)

News and results

Red Stars: Traveling to Portland for NWSL semifinal

It was a little hard for me to watch much of the Red Stars this season as I don't have Paramount+, but good news!: Sunday's playoff match is on CBS Sports Network, which is carried by YouTubeTV, which I do have! Part of the reason I got into the Sky the past two seasons was because their games were accessible on regular TV and hopefully the NWSL can seek out a similar deal as they attempt to grow.

  • As for the match: Top-seeded Portland had a first-round bye and split its two meetings with the Red Stars this season. Like the Sky, the Red Stars are getting hot at the right time. They've won four straight.
  • Winner advances to face OL Reign or Washington next Saturday morning on CBS.

College football preview

#7 Notre Dame (-5.5) at Virginia (6:30, ABC)
The Cavaliers give up a lot of yards (466 per game) but gain more (545). The 8-1 Irish need a big win on the road to move up from the ninth spot and even then it might be tough.

Northwestern (+25) at #20 Wisconsin (11, ESPN2)
The Wildcats are giving up a Big Ten-worst 224 yards on the ground. The Badgers just lost RB Chez Mellusi for the year, but let's be honest: Anyone Wisconsin sticks back there is probably going for at least 175.

Illinois: Bye, at Iowa next week
NIU: Beat Ball State 30-29 on Wednesday, at Buffalo on 11/17

1. New Cubs GM Carter Hawkins detailed how he bonded with Jed Hoyer on a 5.5-hour road trip to the GM meetings.

2. A report on Thursday said Kris Bryant is "unlikely" to re-sign with the Giants, who weren't *that* impressed with our buddy during his time there. On Tap Sports Net

3. Mt. Carmel and Brother Rice are facing each other in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Both administrations sent out a joint letter reminding students and fans to behave themselves. Twitter

4. Paul Lukas with an interesting feature on a pair of downstate football teams that have the ugliest helmets I've ever seen. (But Paul likes them, so who knows.) Uni Watch

5. Dick Butkus was giving off strong "angry uncle at Thanksgiving" vibes when Mark Carman asked him about the state of the Bears.  The Big Lead

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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