Poeltl did address the situation NBA players will face should they make their way to practice facilities. Players will be allowed inside for individual workouts, with limited team staff, and constant individual health checks. “You will arrive with a mask and you will be checked for fever and symptoms. You would come with a ball and go again, there would be no showering, only a trainer would be present, and everything should be disinfected between the units,” said Poeltl. “Of course this is not optimal but I’m somewhat used to being alone and can handle it quite well.”
NBA opinion-leaders Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal are on-record saying that COVID-19 is enough now to give up the season. NBA opinion-leader Mark Cuban - as cautious as he continues to be about needing a return from hiatus to "be perfect'' - says Barkley and Shaq are off-base. "I love those guys but they're wrong," Cuban said. "Guys want to play, there's still a season to be finished out, I still think we can play a few games and then go into the playoffs and crown a champion... let's go, let's play."
Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, thinks the NBA, because of its relatively small rosters, might be better able to return than some sports. Beyond that, he reiterated the idea that the American public is in need of entertainment. "We need something to get excited about," Cuban said on ESPN's Now or Never. "I mean, watching cornhole on ESPN ain't it."
Prior to the NBA stoppage, Spurs' Jakob Poeltl suffered a right MCL sprain which kept him out for five games. But should the NBA resume play, Poeltl expressed come conflict on a return to the court with his injured knee during an interview with German outlet DiePresse. "On the one hand, I would be happy to be able to play basketball again after the knee injury, if only for a few games. On the other hand, I also wonder how useful it would be to train up just for a few games after the injury," Poeltl said. Said Poeltl: "Not everyone has the best tools to keep themselves fit apart from team training."
Sports Illustrated and the New York Times report the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has offered its facilities to house players and host games in a "fully quarantined campus." “It would be like a bubble, it would be very strict. It would be testing before you got there. There would be testing for the two weeks while you were there for the 'incubation period.' And then there would be nobody coming or going for the entire time. So it would be a sacrifice, guys wouldn’t be able to see their families, their kids, things like that. But it’s what would have to be done because health and safety is the number one priority, so that’s what they’re trying to figure out now and I think that’s the most difficult part," Connaughton said.
September 26, 2021 | 6:15 am EDT Update
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.
When asked directly about Irving’s vaccination status — or his plans to change it — multiple people familiar with his thinking declined to answer directly. But one confidant and family member floated to Rolling Stone the idea of anti-vaxx players skipping home games to dodge the New York City ordinance… or at least threatening to protest them, until the NBA changes its ways.
“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” says Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs the seven-time All-Star’s family foundation and is one of the few people in his regular circle of advisors. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”
A spokeswoman for Irving declined to respond to a list of questions regarding his vaccination and playing status, and Irving did not immediately respond to a message from Rolling Stone. But as teams return to pre-season training camps next week, fifty to sixty NBA players have yet to receive a single vaccine dose, league sources tell RS. Most are considered merely reluctant skeptics. Some of the holdouts, however, amount to their own shadow roster of anti-vaxxers mounting a behind-the-scenes resistance to Covid protocols — and the truth.
Isaac considers un-vaxxed players to be vilified and bullied, and he thinks “it’s an injustice” to automatically make heroes out of vaccinated celebrities. He rejects the NBA’s proposal for a vaccine mandate and social distancing for players like him during team travel: “You can play on the same court. We can touch the same ball. We can bump chests. We can do all those things on the court. And then when it comes to being on the bus, we have to be in different parts of the bus? To me, it doesn’t seem logically consistent. “If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Enes Kanter — the veteran center, devout Muslim and outspoken liberal — senses a creep of the religious right upon his workplace, which just happens to involve players like Isaac sweating all over him and yelling in his face: “If a guy’s not getting vaccinated because of his religion, I feel like we are in a time where the religion and science has to go to together,” he tells RS. “I’ve talked to a lot of religious guys — I’m like: ‘It saves people’s lives, so what is more important than that?’”
In their sit-down interview back in August, Durant and Green rehashed the incident and how it ultimately affected KD’s decision to leave the Warriors. Surprisingly, KD claimed it wasn’t the beef itself that pushed him away, but the way Steve Kerr, Bob Myers and the front office handled things. “It wasn’t the argument,” the former Warriors star said. “It was the way that everybody … Steve Kerr acted like it didn’t happen. Bob Myers tried to just discipline you and think that would put a mask over everything. I really felt that was such a big situation for us as a group, the first time we went through something like that. We had to get that s— all out.”