Bulls point guard Tomas Satoransky expressed gratitude during his Tuesday media availability after returning to practice. Satoransky had been forced to quarantine away from the team due to Covid-19 related precautions.
It's fortunate for the Bulls Zach LaVine and Coby White didn't like Noah Vonleh. Or at least decided not to get to close to the roster hopeful.
Because Tomas Satoransky did, which becomes an encapsulation of the dangers and difficulties facing the NBA in this anxious season start.
Satoransky returned to practice Tuesday on the eve of the Bulls opening game after being quarantined for more than a week because he just was near the former Bulls power forward who tested positive for Covid-19 and was waived.
Satoransky never developed any symptoms and 10 days of tests never produced a positive result. Yet, under league protocols at this time, Satoransky was required to remain home under quarantine. It was a personal disappointment, but it also demonstrates how difficult it will be for teams to maintain roster continuity this season.
"I'm just glad to be here, very glad; it's kind of an early Christmas for me," Satoransky told reporters on a Tuesday video conference. "Any day I can practice it's great. Noah Vonleh officially stated he tested positive let's say like 10 days ago and I was in close interaction with him and I had to follow the NBA protocol.
"Obviously it was annoying; it sucked," Satoransky admitted. "I was negative (for Covid) to this point and I was able to come here and have a practice. It was obviously tough for me because you are practicing and working hard for eight months and then this is going to happen to you. I'm just one of the players who is probably going to have to go through this and I'm glad it was just preseason.
"I had a talk with coach and it was obviously a long time that I haven't practiced," said Satoransky. "Maybe I'll do some extra work (Wednesday) just to get some conditioning in and maybe to be able to jump in a couple of minutes. But I don't expect to have a big role in (the Atlanta) game."
Thad Young won't, either, as he was listed as out with the leg infection. Satoransky and Devon Dotson, who also had a Covid incident, were listed as questionable for the opener. Garrett Temple, who had the infection, and Denzel Valentine, who was out with a hamstring strain, are available.
Though Satoransky's experience is frightening just because of the proximity.
Noah Vonleh could have ruined the Bulls season. Not intentionally, of course.
But it also raises so many questions that will be adjudicated with these moving target rules. Though since the players' union has insisted on medical privacy rules for players, the league agreed not to provide detail about whether a player was exposed, infected or involved in a contact tracing situation. No offense to Tomas Satoransky, but what if this occurred with LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant or Steph Curry for a nationally televised game? And he had no symptoms or positive tests. Is he also out almost two weeks? The NBA says of course; no exceptions.
It could be the unknown that dictates this season's contenders and champion more than any other element. Teams always talk about health as a factor for success. Now it may also be staying away from most everyone just in case.
"This is going to be something that not only us but I think everybody around the league is going to be dealing with, especially when you consider we're all going to start traveling here relatively soon," agreed Bulls coach Billy Donovan. "So we've got to remain flexible. There's going to be guys who are going to be available some nights and not available other nights. When a guy is out, the hard part is communicating with them to find out when they actually feel like they're back and they're able to get their timing and their endurance and they feel like they're in a good position and place to be able to play. It's just the way it is.
"Every morning a lot of times is a little bit of an adventure. Because sometimes the calls come in of, ‘Hey, this guy's out, this guy's out, this guy's back.' It's just kind of what I would say a revolving door a little bit," said Donovan. "We're not the only ones dealing with this. We've talked to the guys a lot. We have very conscientious guys. We have good people. We're trying to do all the best that we can to keep one another safe. But we are in a large market and we're going to be in position the entire season that we're going to have to really do the best job we can just maintaining a level of safety. Different things can happen that you have to deal with. But I can't really control who's in, who's out or just different decisions the league makes on certain players."
It was a shock to Satoransky, who quietly is facing a Lauri Markkanen-like situation this season. Much was expected of him last season as an underrated free agent acquisition after substituting well for John Wall in Washington. But Satoransky had his poorest shooting season since his first in the NBA and eventually was replaced at starting point guard by Coby White. But Satoransky also prides himself on his dependability and was along with White the only Bulls players last season to play in every game.
Satoransky played in the preseason opener earlier this month and was sharp with 11 points and two of three on three pointers. Then he disappeared with no explanation.
He's expected to be a reserve, but could prove valuable with his 6-7 size and passing ability with perhaps the chance to play some small forward.
"After I was able to practice I'm in a better mood," Satoransky acknowledged.
He's one of the more agreeable and transparent players on the team, often forthright and thoughtful
"It was very tough for me being at home, not being able to work out or doing anything," Satoransky admitted. "Just self quarantine. You have to be mentally strong and be ready to come back and accept the role you will have after this, so I wouldn't see anything positive out of it (the quarantine). It really tests you mentally and is another challenge you have to go through this season.
"I wouldn't be so sure about anything (this season)," Satorasky acknowledged. "You're going with some plans to the game and suddenly that's what happened, that second preseason game; you are out of the team for at least seven to 10 days. Coach already talked about it. They cannot be sure about anything and we have to really be versatile and everybody has to be ready for another role and that's what I think this season is about; anybody can get their chance and be ready to step up."
"I was in the locker room with him (Vonleh) for some time and because of that I had to talk to the NBA and explain the situation and that was why they felt like it's the best to keep me for 10 days in quarantine," Satoransky explained. "I didn't know what was going to happen at the beginning and then they told me that I have to be patient. Every day I went to test and it was all negative. You don't need to have symptoms, so that's probably the toughest part. It was very difficult because I am the guy who barely missed practices and workouts. Hopefully they will work on this and it will become a better solution for the future."