Warriors, Bulls could both be missing key players in Friday’s showdown

SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green’s status is still in question for the finale of the Warriors’ eight-game homestand Friday, but they’ll be going up against an opponent who is unexpectedly shorthanded in the post.

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic was ruled out Thursday after entering the league’s health and safety protocols, reportedly testing positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Green remains day-to-day with a bruised right thigh that coach Steve Kerr described as “pretty nasty.”

“I definitely got a little dinged (Wednesday). I’m pretty sore today,” Green said Thursday on the Jim Rome Show. “In the grand scheme of things, a small thing to a giant.”

Green took the ding while going for a rebound in the third quarter of the Warriors’ win Wednesday against Minnesota. He exited the game with 6:29 left in the quarter and didn’t return. Afterward, Kerr said Green was questionable for Friday night, and that designation hadn’t changed a day later.

If Green is forced to miss time, expect Juan Toscano-Anderson, Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica to step into his minutes. Replacing the former defensive player of the year will require a team effort, though.

“We have to have a collective effort on the defensive end to try to do what he does by himself as a disrupter on that end,” Stephen Curry said of Green’s potential absence. “Offensively, it changes a little bit if he’s not out there in terms of who’s initiating the offense and how we create shots.”

Green is the primary facilitator of the Warriors’ offense, with 7.2 assists per game, 10th in the NBA, and calls the signals on the other end of the court, where his reputation precedes him as a four-time first-team all-NBA defender and the 2017 defensive player of the year.

“He’s a tough guy to replace. His energy, his leadership, it’s tough to just fill it in with somebody,” said Kevon Looney. “We always had that ‘next man up’ motto. We know Draymond’s going to be there talking and leading us through anyway, so we’ve just got to hold down the fort until he gets back.”

The tall task of possibly winning without Green got a little easier with the news that Chicago would be without its star center.

Vucevic has averaged a double-double in all but three of his past 10 NBA seasons, and this year was no different. The Bulls will have to replace his 13.6 points and 10.9 rebounds after he landed in the league’s health and safety protocols.

At 8-3, Chicago should present one of the Warriors’ toughest tests to date. Kerr raved about the Bulls’ offseason moves, adding Lonzo Ball (12.6 ppg, 4.5 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (26.0 ppg, 5.8 rebounds) to star alongside Zach Lavine (25.9 ppg, 5.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists), though he hadn’t begun to study game film by the afternoon prior to tipoff.

Kerr said he planned to dedicate Thursday evening to watching tape on the Bulls.

“From afar, it looks like everything’s clicking for them,” Kerr said. “They’ve got weapons now, and the pieces of the puzzle fit really well.”

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