Pistons game Tuesday against Bulls postponed due to COVID concerns

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit  — COVID concerns have led to the first game postponements in the NBA.

Tuesday’s matchup between the Pistons and the Chicago Bulls at United Center has been shelved because of COVID issues, the league announced Monday afternoon.

The Bulls have been dealing with a slew of players in health and safety protocols, and apparently, they would have had trouble fielding a team with a minimum of eight available players, which led to the game being put off.

The Bulls' Alize Johnson tested positive for COVID-19, according to an ESPN report.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said the team will use the extra time for practice, a luxury they don’t get very often during the normal routine of the season, which has included games and film days in between those game days.

“It gives us a couple of day of practice, which is very important. Not making excuses, but the hard thing is that you play game, then film, game, film, game, and you don't have that practice time to really go out there and bang,” Casey said Monday. “Once we found out (of the postponement), we kind of ratcheted it up a little bit and went a little longer than we normally would, just because we knew we had some extra time to get some work in.

“We need the practice; we need the reps and we have some young guys coming in and in different positions and we're working on execution. Everything we need to work on to develop those habits, we can use all practices we can get.”

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The Pistons haven’t had any players in the COVID protocols this season.

The Bulls have 10 players in health and safety protocols, after Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr. were added to the COVID list on Sunday and on Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Alize Johnson tested positive.

The Bulls’ matchup Thursday against the Toronto Raptors also was postponed.

NBA rules dictate that a team must have a minimum of eight players available for a game, and the Bulls are at that number, with just Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Devon Dotson, Tyler Cook, Marko Simonovic and Alfonzo McKinnie fit to participate.

McKinnie joined the roster as a hardship exception because of the spate of cases in the past week. Caruso also isn’t completely healthy, so if he were deemed unable to play, the game could be postponed.

Coby White was looking Monday to clear protocols and return to the roster, but likely out of an abundance of caution, the league opted to let the Bulls get the situation under control.

The Pistons next play on Thursday, at the Indiana Pacers.

A lift from Lee

In Sunday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Saben Lee was one of the notable standouts, with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists, along with three steals and three turnovers. Lee was named the G League player of the month, averaging 30 points per game in games with the Motor City Cruise.

He brought some of that same energy to the Pistons, having a breakout game as the backup point guard behind Killian Hayes and Cade Cunningham. It’s a different look than he showed in games with the Pistons this season.

“He was much more relaxed (Sunday) night. I didn't think he was forcing anything, and he let the game come to him. I was really impressed with that, and his defense,” Casey said. “I think the other thing was that he got back to who he was defensively last year. Last year, we got him because of his tenacity defensively and I thought he was all of that (Sunday) night and did a good job of attacking the paint, attacking the basket and he knocked down his shots. He had a good all-around the game.”

Lee is averaging 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2 assists in 11 games with the Pistons, and if he continues playing the way he did against the Nets on Sunday, he could carve out a bigger role for himself in the playing rotation.

Casey said that he wanted to make a switch Sunday and let veteran guard Cory Joseph know that Lee would be playing ahead of him for that game.

“It's just so tough to play everybody. It's always who doesn't play that everybody (wants to know), but it's just difficult. I talked to Cory yesterday to let him know we're going to look at Saben first (Sunday),” Casey said. “When you lose 10 or 11 in a row, you can't stay the same. We've got to make sure we're creative in what we're doing and who we're playing and where we're playing guys, and if we don't, we're in trouble.

“It's not Cory's fault, because Cory hasn't done anything wrong, but just to give us a different vibe of whatever it is and, I thought Saben brought that to the group.”


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard