Marc Stein: The NBA announces that of the 485 players tested leaguewide for COVID-19 since March 17, one new player has returned a confirmed positive test. pic.twitter.com/SczCrh3694
Ava Wallace: Scott Brooks, speaking pretty generally, says there have been talks with the Wizards about getting the vaccine. "There's a lot of people that probably need it more than myself... my stance is I'm willing to take a backseat. But there are definitely discussions."
Casey Holdahl: Injury update: both @Anfernee Simons and @Nassir Little are out for tonight's game due to health and safety protocols...
Unlike the teams, your staff is flying commercial, which adds another layer of potential risk. What has it been like for your staff? And how many have been affected by the virus? Monty McClutchen: Due to flying commercial, our referees have to leave two days in advance from home now, to make sure that they're getting several PCR-negative tests before they go on the floor. We can't do a PCR test, and then fly and then go on the floor. We have had some people test positive, a very, very small number. They were not impacting games at that point; the testing did exactly what it was supposed to do. But we've had people miss games. We've had more two-person games [instead of a three-person crew] than we've ever had in a season.
Omari Sanfoka II: Dwane Casey said he caught COVID-19 around the time Christian Wood had it, and the team didn't publicize it. Didn't have any strong symptoms. He's fully vaccinated now
Nick Friedell: Looney said he had a false positive COVID test but all his following tests came back negative. He’s just happy to be available to play again.
Jusuf Nurkic: I got my vaccine 💉 today. I can't live in fear of infecting someone else and the people I love. The best protection is vaccine and the fastest way to get back to normal. #HaveYourOpinion #MakeYourMove pic.twitter.com/qpbZFUT6cR
Mike Vorkunov: Derrick Rose rejoins the Knicks today. He had COVID-19. He says his family, including his kids, had it too. Rose: "It's real. The COVID thing, I know a lot of people overlook it but it's very serious. It's real... I had the flu. It was nothing like the flu...It was that x10."
The director of sports medicine at AdvocateAurora, and sports physician for the University of Illinois-Chicago, Skiba says the long-term effects of COVID-19 have stumped doctors and wishes he had better answers for players like Tatum—who is not a client, but sounds like one. “He’s not the exception,” Skiba says. “I see that at least a half dozen times a week.” “A lot of it is a mystery,” Skiba says. “It’s like having a fleet of Ferraris. It requires a certain amount of know-how and mechanics to be able to take care of that fleet. And right now, no one's got the owner's manual.”
Every team has been impacted by COVID-19 this season. According to a study by Fansure.com that analyzed the NBA’s official injury reports, all 30 teams have listed at least one player under the COVID-19-related “Health and Safety Protocols” designation. The Celtics and Mavericks have seen the most time spent in protocol (94 player-days for Boston; 91 player-days for Dallas).
Athletes of all kinds are looking for answers. Skiba has become quite prominent in the sports medicine space on Twitter for his work on COVID-19. He has been hearing from athletes—including NBA players—through Twitter direct messages. Mostly he advises NBA players to proceed with an extremely conservative approach. Skiba has seen several instances of endurance athletes coming back too soon, which sets them back for months. He’s seen collegiate runners who regularly used to post sub-15-minute 5Ks who still can’t clock in under 30 minutes months after COVID. “The scary part is,” Skiba says,” we don’t know why that is yet.”
In the fourteen seasons since 2005-06, Stotts has identified 307 confirmed cases of respiratory illness in the NBA including the flu, cold and upper respiratory infection (Stotts excluded last season for consistency purposes). In that sample, players, as a group, missed an average of 26.5 games a season to respiratory illness. 40 games into this season, that number is 213 games lost, or eight times as much as a normal.
Ian Begley: NBA announces that the league & NBPA have agreed to changes to the Health & Safety Protocols for any person who is 2 weeks past their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. There are also changes for any team where 85% of players & 85% of staff are fully-vaccinated. Details here: pic.twitter.com/3F78pCFmmv
Shams Charania: Sources: NBA, NBPA have agreed to new protocols for COVID-19 vaccinated individuals: - No quarantine for exposure - No PCR tests on days off - Interact with any other person at home (not at bar, club, lounge) - Go to outdoor restaurants - Four guests on road without prior testing
Derrick Rose has been out seven straight games because of COVID-19 issues — with Thibodeau saying Tuesday that he’s “feeling a a lot better.” But the coach had no date for his return. NBA sources said physicians analyze each COVID-19 situation case-by-case.
Shams Charania: Three new NBA players tested positive for coronavirus out of 490 tested since March 10, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
Fred VanVleet practiced with the Toronto Raptors in Detroit on Tuesday, following a two-and-a-half-week absence triggered by a positive COVID-19 test result. On a Zoom call, the Raptors guard said that he had "two really bad days" of symptoms while "bunkered down" in isolation. "I tested positive, had symptoms pretty soon after that," VanVleet said. "Back sore. Body aches. I just (felt) like I just played three nights in a row. Sore, headache, my eyes were hurting. I didn't have the shortness of breath or anything like that. I had a fever for a day and a half, two days. But definitely nothing like anything I've ever had. I could feel that it was something different. I just felt the sickness, I could just feel it in me, I could feel it in my bones and my blood and my muscles."
"It was a whirlwind, definitely an experience that I won't forget," VanVleet said. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody. But I'm here, I'm alive, I'm breathing. And I know that there's a lot of people that didn't make it through COVID, so my thoughts and my heart is with the families and people that's been affected by this thing that weren't as fortunate as I was and as I am."
He expressed particular sympathy, however, for the coaches who have been away from the team, and took issue with a tweet from The Athletic's Shams Charania that cited sources saying inconsistent mask-wearing among members of the coaching staff accounted for the spread. "If I was named in that tweet as part of the blame, I would've been really, really mad," VanVleet said. "So, as a player who loves my coaching staff, I'm pissed off for them that that was even put out there. Shams is my guy, and I get it, he was reporting something that somebody told him. But whoever told him that is a few words I won't [say in] public."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Boston's Tristan Thompson is out tonight in health and safety protocol, team says.
Michael Singer: Asked Malone whether the NBA has incentivized players getting the vaccine. "To my knowledge, no. ... Right now, myself and all of our players get tested three times a day. I think you'd probably have a lot more people willing to get the vaccine if that number went from 3 to 1."
Dane Moore: Jaden McDaniels had inclusive results yesterday on his COVID test and was eventually placed in the league’s health and safety protocols, missing last night’s game. But that test was deemed a false positive, and McDaniels will be back on Tuesday night against the Lakers.
Harrison Wind: Nuggets injury report for tomorrow vs. Pacers: RJ Hampton (health and safety protocols), Gary Harris (left adductor strain) and Monte Morris (left quadriceps strain) are all out.
Tim MacMahon: The Mavs are awaiting approval from the NBA office before moving forward on plans for players and staff to get vaccinated, a source told ESPN.
Sources told ESPN that while the majority of players on the Pelicans who were eligible received the shot, not every player did. Pelicans reserve guard Sindarius Thornwell became the first player to publicly acknowledge his intent to get the vaccine with a tweet late Friday night.
The Pelicans worked with Ochsner Medical Center to get eligible member of the organization their first shot -- if they chose to receive it. "The three COVID vaccines we have are safe and effective and everyone who qualifies should get the shot as soon as they can," said Christina Edwards, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for Gov. Edwards, in a statement to ESPN. "People, like members of the Pelicans, can consult with their doctors about if they might qualify because of their health conditions."
"League policy requires teams to follow their state's vaccination guidelines and programs and we are fully supportive of players and team staff being vaccinated when they are eligible," an NBA spokesperson said in a statement. Around the league, some coaches have begun to probe performance staff and team doctors, asking them when a vaccine will become available. At least one team intends to put together vaccine programs for staff and players, but that could still be weeks away.
The Pelicans received their vaccines through a partnership with a local hospital and in consultation with team doctors and officials. On Tuesday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, allowing anyone 16 or older with a health condition that may result in a higher risk of disease to get the vaccine.
One of the 12 conditions is being overweight, which is defined as someone having a body mass index of over 25, a criteria that many NBA players hit despite being professional athletes. Anyone in the state with conditions like asthma, hypertension and Type 1 diabetes are also now eligible.
One year ago, Andy Larsen had writer’s block in the weirdest place. He was sitting on the floor of an NBA arena, his back against the scorer’s table, his Cole Haans pointed toward center court. Being present for the shutdown of the NBA season is a once-in-a-lifetime story. Larsen wanted to write something good. He just couldn’t get his vital organs on the same page. Glancing at his Fitbit, Larsen saw his heart rate climb to 100 beats per minute. But his brain was moving like Greg Ostertag. “I couldn’t get out more than a sentence at a time that made any kind of narrative sense,” he said.
Larsen, who is 29, is one of two Utah Jazz beat writers at the Salt Lake Tribune. Thanks partly to his formative years as a TrueHoop Network blogger, Larsen asks tough questions without letting delicacy get in the way. Joe Ingles has blocked Larsen on Twitter. After a Jazz loss to the Pelicans this month, Larsen asked Donovan Mitchell why he missed so many dunks. “His charm is that he lacks all social tact,” said Ben Anderson, who covers the Jazz for KSLsports.com.
March 11, 2020, was one of the great record scratches in sportswriting history. To find a decent comp, you’d have to go back to a spasm of terror at the Olympics or maybe a soccer riot. Three Jazz beat writers went to Oklahoma City to see whether the team could get a leg up on the 4-seed in the Western Conference. They wound up covering a league shutdown that signaled just how severe the pandemic would become in the United States. Personal fear became part of an NBA beat job in a way the writers had never experienced. “I like this [job] because I don’t have to see dead bodies,” said Anderson. “I like this because I don’t have to deal with the heavy part of it. The worst thing that is going to happen to me this year is that a bunch of 76ers fans are mad at me.”
The first thing to understand about March 9 is that the Jazz weren’t trying to protect the beat writers from Gobert. They were trying to protect Gobert from the beat writers. “The idea was that any of us unwashed media masses could infect Rudy Gobert,” said Larsen. Don’t put our $25 million-a-year shot blocker on the DL! When Gobert touched their recorders, the beat writers saw him offering an olive branch. As Anderson told me, “I thought that was Rudy trying to say, ‘Hey, I get we’re all being cautious. We’re all being careful. I’m going to show you I’m still willing to bridge this gap.’” “He’s telling us, ‘I’m not afraid of you. Don’t worry, guys, we’re cool,’” said Todd. “It was more like a sign of solidarity than anything.”
A year ago, the Jazz beat writers were like a lot of Americans when it came to COVID-19. “Nobody was really overly alarmed,” said Jones. On the March East Coast road trip, Todd wondered whether she and Jones should buy masks. When Larsen is on the road, Walden normally watches games on TV at home. But on March 11, he asked his boss whether he could have the night off to take his son to an All Elite Wrestling event, where they were surrounded by thousands of other fans. “I knew that there were only a handful of cases in Utah,” said Larsen. “I knew that there were limited deaths in America. I was honestly frustrated by kind of the piecemeal establishment of some of these restrictions.” After Larsen landed in Oklahoma City, he and members of the Jazz’s in-house media team went to a bar to play trivia.
In the media dining room, a source told Larsen that Gobert had been tested for COVID-19, which made the possibility that he had it slightly less remote. A few minutes later, the Jazz announced that Gobert wasn’t playing against the Thunder, after all. As tipoff approached, the writers sat in their press seats at the top of the lower bowl, watching the events that are now the subject of documentaries and oral histories. They saw the Thunder team doctor corner the refs. The PA announcer said the teams were awaiting “league confirmation” to start the game. “I’ve been covering the NBA for eight years,” said Todd. “There has never been an instance where you had to wait on league confirmation to start. That’s not a thing.”
William Lou: Nick Nurse pushes back on report that Raptors cases are linked to coaches not wearing masks: "I don't think anybody would have any idea what they're talking about, saying that. That is unfair, very speculative thing to say."
Tim Bontemps: None of Nick Nurse's assistant coaches who were in quarantine have been let out of it yet, meaning he will be coaching with a limited staff. Acting head coach Sergio Scariolo will be back in his usual role as assistant coach.
The doctors called and told Donovan Mitchell Sr. to unlock his hotel room door, slide the bolt so it stayed open and then stay back in the room. That was unnerving. But then the doctors walked in wearing full hazmat suits and what started going through Mitchell’s mind that day — March 12, 2020 — was how sick might he be. And if he was indeed sick with COVID-19, had he gotten the entire Mets team ill as well?
“They were in there for two minutes to test me, then they left,” Mitchell said, remembering the unsettling times from a year ago. “I was left there for the next few days wondering if I had it or not and who else I might have given it to.”
This was part of a “scary, scary time” in the words of Mitchell, who was then the Mets’ longtime director of public relations and community engagement. On March 4, he had gone to see his son, the Utah Jazz star, Donovan Mitchell Jr., play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Now, after learning his son’s diagnosis, Mitchell mentally ran through pretty much every player on the Mets roster and, yep, he had contact with all of them. “We had done an autograph signing, productions, appearances, I was hands-on with every player in that locker room,” Mitchell said. “If I had it, pretty much it was a done deal that I would pass it on to somebody. … Now, I am starting to panic. If I have it, I don’t want to be the reason why they can’t practice or they can’t play or I infected someone on the team.”
Q: With the March 11 anniversary coming of the work stoppage, do you have any recollections of March 11? And just how fast or how slow everything went that day? NBA head doctor Leroy Sims: Yes, I do. That was a particularly tough day, knowing the impact of what a positive test could mean, for our game. And we were so early on in the process, with where testing was, and masking and everything from a public health point of view. And we were just getting a lot of information very quickly. So knowing that we were in the position that we were in, things went, as you said, both fast and slow that day. But a lot of decisions had to be made. And really from the point that we did have to decide to stop play, we really just did what the NBA does. And we started looking forward to, what's coming, what information do we need? And how can we safely restart our season, should we get to a point that we can do that.
Q: It's a year later, we have three vaccines now. Do you feel like you'd have to incentivize athletes in taking the vaccine, let alone getting them to be public about it? NBA head doctor Leroy Sims: I think the most important thing that I can do as a physician is to educate my patients, educate the public, and that is the campaign that we're on with the players. I want to make sure that they have the information that they need to make an informed decision. And that information has to be credible. And that's where I come in and give them the information from the clinical trials, try to break down how the vaccines work, kind of dispel myths, but also the message has to be credible about the messenger, as well. And that's where I come in and doing these presentations to the teams, each team I presented for half an hour or so. And being able to give them that information, hopefully be a trusted source, but then answer their questions. And the process of informed decision-making and informed consent in medicine involves telling people about the risks, the benefits, and any alternatives that are there. And so when we talk about the risks, we talk both about the risks associated with the vaccine — very small — but also the risks associated with the virus — a lot higher.
NBA head doctor Leroy Sims: So that's my approach is to arm our players, our organization with the information that they need to make an informed decision. Then when you talk about incentives of vaccination, I think that's a conversation, too. And that's my last slide when I talk about what are the potential benefits, the realistic benefits personally into the community, but also in the larger context. But I think that also breaks for me along medical lines because you see that vaccination allows people certain freedoms. And we take our cues from the CDC there. And so I again reflect medically on what the positives come as a result of vaccination. I don't feel like I necessarily, as a doctor who's advising them, needs to dangle a carrot. I think I need to give them the information that they need to make a great decision.
Q: What does herd immunity look like with the players themselves? Will a certain percentage of players need to take it for the league to achieve some level of herd immunity or is that even feasible? NBA head doctor Leroy Sims: So herd immunity is an infectious disease concept. It's not something that you can measure through a clinical trial. But the number that's tossed around for herd immunity is somewhere upwards of 75-80% of people being immunized. And herd immunity refers to immunization either through having been infected with the virus or through vaccination. And so that is, I explained what herd immunity is, and I explained it this way. Herd immunity is where one sick individual can only infect on average less than one person and say if I have coronavirus, and it's 10 of us in a room, I can infect the person to my right. But the two of us can't impact anyone else. So in essence is 80% protected, fewer than one person infected by me, that's herd immunity. So I try to give them that context. But as people move, you have people coming in and out of given spaces and players being around, it's hard to set that number and say, this is the target. But what we try to think about is to be reflective of what the definitions that we're hearing coming from the Department of Public Health, the CDC, WHO, which again, it's probably in that 80% range of people being immunized, again through either having been previous infection or current vaccination.
“In many ways, the NBA led professional sports, and led much of society in signaling when this pandemic had arrived, and how we had to address it,” says Neel Gandhi, an associate professor of epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta.
“I think we've done about as well as we could have, under the circumstances,” Silver told me. “I had a number of frustrations along the way in that, certainly beginning last March, we were operating somewhat in the dark.”
The league’s greatest concern surrounding the All-Star Game was not the 5% of players who traveled to Atlanta, but the other 95% who got to enjoy a five-day vacation—albeit with some restrictions on travel and continued daily testing. According to the NBA’s computer models, “it is likely we will have an uptick in positive cases when the guys come back” to their teams this week, Silver says. “There's no doubt we're introducing additional risks,” Silver says of players traveling during the break. “There's absolutely no doubt. But yet it was felt to be needed and worth it for the overall physical and mental well-being of our players.”
Tom Orsborn: More from Rudy Gay on having COVID: "I know a lot of people think it can’t happen to them or have had it and think it’s over. It’s not over, you have to respect it. It’s been tough...you have to get yourself back in shape and that’s really tough. It’s been a process.”
March 29, 2023 | 1:38 pm EDT Update
Damian Lillard picks Lu Dort as the best defender in the NBA
Damian Lillard is one of the NBA’s most feared scorers, and it didn’t take him long to answer who he thinks is the best defender in the NBA. “Lu Dort,” Lillard said. “I think he has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it. And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.”
“It’s like he is a wall on wheels,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “You are not turning the corner on him. The Leonard play the other night – we’ve seen that countless times in game flow, where it’s like: ‘You are not going anywhere.’ It’s incredible.”
When Lillard sees Oklahoma City and Dort on the schedule, he says he slightly alters his approach. Lillard is always an relentless attacker, but he says he makes sure to establish that aggressiveness even earlier when playing Dort. “I just know what I’m dealing with,” Lillard said. “With a guy like him, I go at him first, so he knows he isn’t going to come in here thinking he is the boss of this s—. He’s going to have to be on his job, and he’s going to have to know that from the beginning.”