Back in the hotel room, the walls close in for players. More video games and binge watching. Myles Turner has delved into Narcos and has been playing Cyberpunk 2077, while Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph recently watched the Tony Parker documentary on Netflix. “I don’t think locking up in a room for 24 hours just coming out to play basketball is mentally healthy,” Haslem said. “I need to go out and take a walk because there are things that can pile up that have nothing to do with the game of basketball. And you’re saying that I can’t even go take a walk? I don’t think that’s right. Even in the bubble, you can go take a walk and get some fresh air.”
Attempts to grow closer as a team are confronting a world in which proximity to teammates is both dangerous and prohibited. As a result, NBA players and staffs have been reduced to distant conversations through face masks, and a road life dominated by individual screens rather than collective camaraderie. "The reality is that you can't do stuff like that anymore," Haslem said. "Those opportunities don't exist." In Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner's words: "It's a bubble within a bubble."
STARTING AN AVERAGE day on the road, an NBA player must now wake up as early as 7:30 a.m. to be tested before a practice or shootaround, depending on the market. He then returns to his room to catch another hour or so of sleep, or to busy himself with a video game, an episode of a series or maybe a FaceTime session with family back home. A couple of hours later, he reports downstairs to board the team bus. The wait in the lobby is traditionally a time when players schmooze and hang out, but with everyone at least 6 feet apart and masked, the vibe has taken on an edgy quality.
Pre-practice strategy sessions at the hotel can no longer last more than 10 minutes. Shootaround or practice offer some normalcy, but breakfast back at the hotel in a ballroom, typically a communal ritual where players and staff yuck it up at tables for eight, now operates as a grab-and-go. Want some fresh air? Forget about taking a walk outside, even though the CDC and other leading medical institutions regard outdoor activities with the appropriate precautions as low risk.
This season, that ground rarely extends much past the door to a hotel room. The Spurs' custom on the plane has been effectively prohibited. Under the new guidelines, players must sit next to the same guys they sit next to on the bench during games. On an off night, it's dinners for one in the room -- a far cry from the jovial dining out experience in a road city. "I think that's hard -- having options taken away," Holiday said. "You might go to your favorite city, and have a favorite food spot that people might not know about. And that's something that you can bring to the table, something you share, and [this season] you can't really share that."
Ira Winderman: The Heat have installed some plastic partitions at AmericanAirlines Arena for closer fan seating starting Thursday. pic.twitter.com/kOk4dnXhLD
Tim Reynolds: Avery Bradley is available. Goran Dragic is out. Tyler Herro is TBD.
Shams Charania: One new NBA player tested positive for coronavirus out of 492 tested since Jan. 20, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium . Down from 11 positives last week and 16 the prior week.
A month into the season, and I can only draw one conclusion: The NBA blew it. The decision to play games in home markets has been a failure. Dozens of games have been postponed. Countless more have been impacted by player absences. A 72-game season for many teams is a pipe dream. The ticket revenue squeezed out of a handful of arenas has been overshadowed by daily disruptions. The unwillingness to eat the cost of a closed-campus environment has come at a greater price. “F--- this,” texted a veteran assistant coach last week. “I’m ready to go back [to the bubble].”
Across the NBA, a return to bubble life is picking up supporters. “It’s starting to get janky,” tweeted Aaron Gordon. “I’d be cool with a bubble if it was in the Bahamas or Hawaii and we got to bring our family/wife or girlfriend.” George Hill didn’t go that far, but when the NBA announced stricter protocols this month the Thunder guard declared, “If it's that serious, then maybe we shouldn't be playing.”
Mirjam Swanson: Ty Lue on Kawhi and PG's absence due to health and safety protocols: "It's so much uncertainty with the COVID situation, you never know, it's tough... It's a tough time, but thankfully those guys are feeling well and they can get better and come to join the team soon."
Andrew Greif: Per the most recent injury report for tonight's game, there are no additional players listed for the Clippers. Still Beverley, Leonard and George listed out.
Dr. Leroy Sims has been on hundreds of Zoom calls since the pandemic hit the United States. Many were of sobering variety. But on Sunday afternoon, the NBA senior vice president of medical affairs led a Zoom call that had special meaning to him as he talked to his grandmother, uncle and other family members and close friends who were mostly African American about why they should take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There was some skepticism,” Sims told The Undefeated in a phone interview on Jan. 22. “They asked, ‘Were Black people included in the clinical trials? How did they really know it worked?’ I used a slide with results and graphs showing treatment vs. placebo. I walked them through the vaccine development process and how this timeline works. It helped knowing that I got vaccinated after having my own hesitation initially, which I shared. I told them that it wasn’t mandatory that I got vaccinated, but my research and reviews helped me make my decision. I said I would recommend it to grandma. That I swayed her helped them too.
“Just being able to have someone break it down for them, someone speaking to them who they know and trust, and someone there to answer all their questions gave everyone across the board more comfort with the vaccines. I appealed to the reality that they, my parents and elders, got other vaccines and vaccinated us throughout the years. So, I know they aren’t anti-vaxxers. I encouraged them to ask questions, remain curious and make informed decisions, and not just accept things based on blind faith, because medicine is supposed to be based on evidence.”
What is the state of the NBA as it attempts to play out the season with the challenges that come with COVID-19? I would say that if you judge us independently of what happened in the bubble, we’re doing as well as we expected and are probably where we thought we would be. Judging us against the bubble, where we were in a controlled environment and we had no players test positive, then it makes the season seem like a contrast. But in reality, in both situations, we were able to generate health and safety protocols to keep people healthy and safe. If you look at where we are with this season, we’re playing the majority of our games.
When do you think NBA players and the coaching staff will start getting the vaccine? We’re not jumping the line. We understand that the vaccine is rolling out in such a way that you’re trying to get to the people who are most at risk or most vulnerable first, that includes front-line workers like myself working in the ER [emergency room], because we’re around so many people who could have the virus. It includes people who are elderly, living in congregate settings, like nursing homes, or people who have chronic medical conditions. Those people who are at risk of severe complications, hospitalizations or deaths if they were to get COVID, we’re focused on them. After that, we’ll open it up. The vaccine will start to be distributed to others in the community.
We recognize that our basketball players are young and healthy, so they will get vaccinated or have the opportunity to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. So we won’t be jumping the line there. As it relates to some of our coaches and older individuals, some of them are in categories that allow them to get vaccinated. But that will bear out the way that the local hospitals, departments of public health, are rolling out the vaccine and setting up the prioritization.
Ira Winderman: Heat injury report for Wednesday vs. visiting Nuggets: Out: Jimmy Butler (protocols) Chris Silva (hip flexor) Meyers Leonard (shoulder) Moe Harkless (thigh) Questionable Avery Bradley (protocols) Tyler Herro (neck) Goran Dragic (groin) Gabe Vincent (ankle)
After lengthy stays in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Mavericks Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game at Utah and will travel with the team Tuesday to Salt Lake City. Maxi Kleber remains in the protocol and will not travel to Utah.
Although the three returning Mavericks are all listed as questionable, coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday’s practice that he expects that all will get court time on Wednesday and then have their minutes ramped up in ensuing games. “It’s been a long road for these guys,” Carlisle said. “They’ve been through a big process. We’ve just got to get them back into it. There’s going to be a gradual aspect to it. They’re not going to be in game shape overnight, but it’s great having them back on the floor. It’s great having them back in practice. It’s three of our best defenders and most unselfish guys. Having them back in the fold is a big plus.”
Eddie Sefko: Dorian Finney-Smith said he felt like he had a cold while isolated for 14 days in a Denver hotel room. Said he never thought it would be him during what has become a crazy, crazy season. More to come on mavs.com
Dr. Leroy Sims has been on hundreds of Zoom calls since the pandemic hit the United States. Many were of sobering variety. But on Sunday afternoon, the NBA senior vice president of medical affairs led a Zoom call that had special meaning to him as he talked to his grandmother, uncle and other family members and close friends who were mostly African American about why they should take the COVID-19 vaccine. “There was some skepticism,” Sims told The Undefeated in a phone interview on Jan. 22. “They asked, ‘Were Black people included in the clinical trials? How did they really know it worked?’ I used a slide with results and graphs showing treatment vs. placebo. I walked them through the vaccine development process and how this timeline works. It helped knowing that I got vaccinated after having my own hesitation initially, which I shared. I told them that it wasn’t mandatory that I got vaccinated, but my research and reviews helped me make my decision. I said I would recommend it to grandma. That I swayed her helped them too.
When do you think NBA players and the coaching staff will start getting the vaccine? Sims: We’re not jumping the line. We understand that the vaccine is rolling out in such a way that you’re trying to get to the people who are most at risk or most vulnerable first, that includes front-line workers like myself working in the ER [emergency room], because we’re around so many people who could have the virus. It includes people who are elderly, living in congregate settings, like nursing homes, or people who have chronic medical conditions. Those people who are at risk of severe complications, hospitalizations or deaths if they were to get COVID, we’re focused on them. After that, we’ll open it up. The vaccine will start to be distributed to others in the community.
Miami Heat guard Avery Bradley revealed on the Yahoo Sports’ “Posted Up with Chris Haynes Podcast” that he’s been sidelined since Jan. 9 after testing positive for COVID-19 and placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol. In Monday’s episode, the 6-foot-2 defensive stalwart spoke on numerous topics and specifically about his raw emotions upon receiving the news. "To be honest, I was upset because I come to work and I do the right things, I come to work every single day and do all the protocols to make sure I’m protected so I can protect my family. To come up with the news knowing that I got it at work, I was a little frustrated to be honest,” Bradley said on “Posted Up.” “I was frustrated because I felt like it compromised my family’s safety.”
Andrew Lopez: Sources tell @Adrian Wojnarowski and me that the issue with the postponement in the Spurs-Pelicans game is with a potential coronavirus exposure to a non-team member of the traveling parties of both teams in recent days. The NBA is taking extra precautions with these situations.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: The NBA and NBPA are discussing scenarios to still hold an All-Star game in March. One site under discussion is Atlanta, home of Turner Sports. That idea includes providing support for HBCU’s and COVID-19 relief. Story soon on site.
Ira Winderman: NBA source tells the Sun Sentinel that the expectation is Jimmy Butler will be cleared from pandemic protocol today. Then it will come down to a matter of conditioning. Heat play at Brooklyn tonight, then next play Wednesday at home against Denver.
Brooklyn center DeAndre Jordan affectionately shooed Adebayo away as well with a pat on the head. The scene after the Nets’ 128-124 win Saturday night at Barclays Center was surreal, but encapsulates the COVID era we’re living in. “I just want to follow NBA protocols,” Irving said with a wan laugh, before adding as he left the Zoom call “I have the jersey, by the way.”
When asked if Irving ever got that pink-and-blue Heat jersey, Adabayo just shrugged his shoulders and threw his hands up in the air, looking over at a Heat staffer and eventually bursting out into laughter. “Oh yeah, he definitely wants it. I’m going to send one on my own time,” Adabayo said of Irving. “Just want to do that on my own time, and have a special 41 up there, you know?”
Brad Townsend: As Rick Carlisle said last night, Josh Richardson worked out in AAC and might return this week. From what I've heard, most likely order COVID-case returns is Richardson, Finney-Smith, Powell, Kleber, but as Carlisle repeatedly has emphasized, everything is fluid.
The Heat will use coronavirus-sniffing dogs at AmericanAirlines Arena to screen fans who want to attend their games. They've been working on the plan for months, and the highly trained dogs have been in place for some games this season in which the team has allowed a handful of guests -- mostly friends and family of players and staff. Starting this week, a limited number of ticket holders will be in the seats as well, provided they get past the dogs first.
"If you think about it, detection dogs are not new," said Matthew Jafarian, the Heat's executive vice president for business strategy. "You've seen them in airports, they've been used in mission-critical situations by the police and the military. We've used them at the arena for years to detect explosives."
Alex Schiffer: Kyrie Irving asked about his attempt to get a jersey from Bam Adebayo at the end of the game and having it broken up by security: "I just want to follow NBA protocols."
The Miami Heat are planning to allow fans into AmericanAirlines Arena again starting on Jan. 28, and those fans can expect the usual gamut of COVID-19 precautions: mandatory masks, social distancing, increased cleaning, limited attendance. And dogs.
The Heat recently released guidelines for fans planning to attend a game, and it included an entire video, seen above, showing how a group of specially trained dogs will be on hand to sniff fans to see if they have COVID-19 as they enter the arena. Because apparently dogs can do that now. Specifically, fans will stand in a distanced line, at which point an employee will guide a dog past the line. If a dog signals it has detected the coronavirus by sitting down in front of a person, that person and their entire group will be denied entry to the arena.
Dane Moore: Ryan Saunders said that Ricky Rubio will play "shorter stints" tonight if he is able to play. Sounds kind of like a game-time decision. Rubio was typically playing between 22 and 28 minutes prior to the COVID exposure.
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is nearing a return and is listed as questionable to play Friday night against the Phoenix Suns. Porter has been cleared from the NBA's health and safety protocols and returned to the team, a league source told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said that Porter has to clear a cardio exam to return to play from the protocols.
Clutch Points: REPORT: Japan's government has privately concluded that the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (via @thetimes) pic.twitter.com/X9mVY3yJd8
John Karalis: Jayson Tatum is officially out tomorrow vs. Philly
Now that they’re in, it’s going to be very hard to get some players to opt out. “I love the game of basketball, so if I have the chance to play it, I will,” Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant told me on a Zoom Monday. “I also feel like COVID is a big thing going on right now. We still have to be safe. I feel like the league’s doing a great job, from last season to even this season, trying to stop it, make sure we keep the games going and everybody staying safe and healthy. I feel like as long as everybody locks into it, hold each other accountable and also their self, I feel like the season will be fine to continue to go on.”
Dr. Prins, who reviewed the protocols for The New York Times, noted that in defining close contact, the N.B.A. included a quote from the C.D.C. that said that the transmission from an infected person is based on several factors, including whether they are “likely to generate respiratory aerosols.” “Well what do we think is happening on the court?” Dr. Prins said. “This is not two people sitting across from each other for 10 minutes and they haven’t even been talking or anything. These are people who are breathing hard and calling to each other on the court. I think it is very likely that they are generating a lot of aerosols. For me, I would want a very conservative definition of close contact here.”
David Aldridge: Scott Brooks says the Wizards’ staff member’s positive test disclosed this week was a false positive, and that the staffer has tested negative every day since.
Chase Hughes: Wizards announce SIX players are out for Friday's game vs. Bucks due to Covid protocol, plus two more for injuries: Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, Moe Wagner. Also, Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad).
Ava Wallace: The Wizards are back at practice. First time on court for the group since Jan. 11, and we’ll hear from Scott Brooks and Bradley Beal after.
Jared Weiss: Stevens says Jayson Tatum is out of the COVID protocol now but has to ramp up activity over a few days. Worked out back in Boston today. He may return on Friday, though Stevens isn’t saying anything on that yet.
Shams Charania: 11 new NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus out of 502 tested since Jan. 13, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
On “The Rich Eisen Show,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said he hopes the league doesn’t have to pause the season. “I think we’re at that point right now where there’s concern,” Rivers said, “that we’re gonna have to pause. I don’t want to have a pause. I don’t think a pause would be good for us, if you know what I mean. But, it also is very difficult.”
Devin Booker has Karl-Anthony Towns even nearer and dearer to his heart after learning his close friend has tested positive for COVID-19. "My prayers are with him and his family," Booker said after Tuesday's practice. "Times have been tough for him. Tough for a lot of people. We're taking it seriously."
Booker and Towns were teammates at Kentucky for the 2014-15 season and have remained close. So the Phoenix Suns All-Star guard immediately reached out to Towns about his health and well being. "His health is my priority," Booker said. "The health of his family is my priority."
After witnessing some opposing players disregarding new league rules against unnecessary contact on game nights, the NBA is moving team security into the midcourt area to dissuade violations that include hugging and handshakes, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN on Wednesday.
Despite those changes, there were still instances of traditional players' contact in postgame scenarios, which led the NBA to issue a memo on Wednesday reaffirming the rules that require teams to remain on their half of the court in pregame and halftime warmups, and limits to physical contact that include only elbow or fist bumps. High-fives, hugs and handshakes aren't allowed, nor are extended conversations post-game.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Portland-Memphis is postponed tonight because of contact tracing, sources tell ESPN.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the league has discussed having players receive COVID-19 vaccines to educate and influence the public regarding their safety and effectiveness. "There have been discussions. It's something we're particularly focused on," Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico.
"In the African American community, there's been enormously disparate impact from COVID ... but now, somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] in the African American community for understandable historical reasons. ... If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated."
Andy Larsen: Quin Snyder: "We would encourage everybody to take the vaccine... we haven't had specific conversations [about that], we're just trying to follow the current protocols"
Casey Holdahl: CJ McCollum notes his aunt has COVID-19 during his first press conference since breaking his left foot. And it brings up something I've been struggling with, which is that's it's difficult to talk about sports injuries right now without feeling kind of... foolish I guess?
Paul Rosenberg: Stephen A reveals on First Take that NBA reporter Sekou Smith is suffering from covid & he is hearing that "he's not doing so well". Obviously first I have heard of it. Have had Sekou on a few times to chat NBA on WFAN. Hopefully he has a full recovery.
February 27, 2021 | 9:03 pm EST Update
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: After missing 10 consecutive games in the league’s health and safety protocol, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is likely to return to the lineup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.