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However, during his postgame news conference, teammate Khris Middleton indicated Holiday might have tested positive for COVID-19. “You definitely think about it, especially for Jrue,” Middleton said. “It’s nothing to play around with. And once he tested positive, you immediately think about his health, his safety and then his family back home. He has little kids too that he has to worry about. So, I think that was a huge part of what was going through my mind before the game. Just thinking about him and his family back home.”
Budenholzer said he believed the game’s status was never in doubt, but Lopez was far less confident. “I wasn’t sure obviously,” Lopez said. “I took my pregame nap and I wasn’t sure if I was going to wake up and there was going to be a text like, ‘Oh. No game tonight. Pack up.’ or ‘We’re staying.’ or whatever it was.”
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo shared a similar sentiment as Lopez, he woke up from his nap and found out the game was still going to be played. “I think you always just have to be prepared in thinking about what you can do if somebody’s not able to go,” Budenholzer said. “Just proud of the guys. That’s a good win on the road against a really good team. Different guys stepped up and played well. It’s not easy, but proud of our guys. It was a good win.”
League officials want this, in large part, because they believe the fans, the Turner folks and the players want it too (contrary to popular belief). Of course, money is the primary motivating factor — no one is denying that. But safety, league sources say, is being prioritized in the kind of way that should make it all possible without putting players in harm’s way.
Sources say league officials are very confident they can pull it off safely because the restrictions for players are expected to be extreme and the timeline will be drastically condensed. And any player who thinks this will be anything remotely resembling the annual All-Star gala, with nonstop appearances and parties throughout the weekend before the game finally arrives on Sunday, is in for a rude awakening.
As one person with knowledge of the situation put it, “It’s basically going to be a mini-bubble.” And therein lies the irony: For all the focus on the possible dangers that could come with holding an All-Star game, the league’s belief is that the players who come will likely be better off than the many who are expected to squeeze in getaways during the short break. According to an ESPN report, player travel during the break is limited to the United States (including Hawaii), the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Sources tell The Athletic that the medical protocol that still has to be agreed upon by the NBA and the NBPA is being finalized, but the following is expected to be part of the plan. A quick timeline: Players would come into Atlanta on Saturday afternoon and evening and be gone by Sunday night. Private transportation required: Flights, cars, all of the above. Players would only be permitted to be at the hotel or State Farm Arena, with no exceptions made for other locations. The notion of fans being at the game appears likely, especially considering the Hawks have already been permitting 1,000 people to their home games. Sources say it’s not expected to be many, but a number is not clear. Considering the contrast to the Orlando bubble, where there were no fans and any ‘Tier 2’ attendees who hadn’t undergone quarantines and daily testing were seated far above the floor, this is where any comparison to that set-up potentially falls flat.
In the Mavericks’ respective cases, Richardson, Finney-Smith and Powell haven’t offered much detail about their COVID plights. After Saturday’s win over Golden State, Kleber in his first public comments in four weeks gave a stark description of playing games post-COVID. “Being sick at home obviously is not fun, especially when your guys are playing,” he said. “That was not fun.”
Maxi Kleber: “I’ve got to be honest: Coming back from that, and when you’re sitting at home for more than 20 days, it really hurts the first couple of practices. The games, your legs are heavy. You feel slow. I still feel slow. I hope that me and all the guys that had to sit out that long get back in shape and get to moving again. Because if you rest that long, it can take some time.”
Troy Brown: When they told me that I tested positive, I wasn’t surprised. I had already started quarantining, so it wasn’t a shock; the positive test just confirmed my suspicions. I’ve taken COVID very seriously and been very safe since this all started, but I still got it. When I got the news, I wasn’t too scared. I don't know if I’ll have any long-term issues that are related to COVID, but I try not to worry about that since it’s out of my control. My mindset is this: It happened and I can't do anything about it, so I’m just trying to stay as positive as I can, live day-by-day and not worry. Once I was quarantined, I was just resting every day. I played a lot of Call of Duty and NBA 2K (I’m a big fan of MyCareer mode). I played with my dogs a lot (I have a Pomeranian and a Shih Tzu Poodle). I did a lot of cleaning. I was watching a lot of basketball too -- from highlights to different games on League Pass.
Troy Brown: I definitely feel safe in our work environment. They deep clean the facility and we’re always wearing masks and social distancing. In every corner of our facility, there are free masks available and they make sure we’re always wearing one. They’ve changed a number of things for safety reasons. For instance, we’re not allowed to eat on the airplane anymore unless the flight is three hours or longer (or something like that). That way, we keep our masks on for the duration of the flight. They added a bunch of rules like that in an effort to minimize risk. Our coaches and staff in Washington have been incredible; they are definitely prioritizing our health.
Dane Moore: After missing the past 12 games in Health and Safety protocols, Karl-Anthony Towns has been upgraded to "doubtful" for tomorrow night's game in Dallas. Moving in the right direction... I guess?
Duane Rankin: "It's just a lot to handle. The players want to play. The league wants to keep everybody safe and keep the league going. It's not going to be perfect." Monty Williams on seeing Brooklyn star Kevin Durant pulled during Friday's game due to #NBA health and safety protocols. #Suns pic.twitter.com/HUQZ9R00nX
Duane Rankin: "I'm thankful we'll have fans, but I'm also pleased to see this act of kindness towards this group of people." Monty Williams on #Suns playing first home game this season with fans as franchise provided free tickets for healthcare workers to see today's noon game vs. #Celtics. pic.twitter.com/a5HdZCpVbN
The Jump: Per @Adrian Wojnarowski: The league will not fine KD for his tweets from last night. #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #BrooklynTogether
Malika Andrews: All of the Nets players and staff continue to test negative for COVID-19 -- including after last night's game against Toronto -- sources tell ESPN.
Malika Andrews: Yesterday, Durant drove with a team employee three separate times to the team practice facility for testing, home from testing and to the arena for the game, sources tell ESPN. Durant and the employee did not appear to be wearing masks. As a result, sources told ESPN, it was decided that Durant needed to quarantine despite continuing to test negative.
Brian Lewis: Nash said the individual that Kevin Durant came in contact with that tested positive for COVID-19 is not the same person that caused his last contact tracing quarantine. Adds he trusts KD’s judgment, and all his players. #Nets
Tom Moore: #Nets coach Steve Nash on Kevin Durant: 'We found out he can re-join the team Friday. I assume that's the 7-day contact tracing protocol.'
The NBA doesn’t want the Super Bowl to turn into a superspreader. Mindful of the potential of virus-related issues that can come from attending even small gatherings, the NBA issued guidance Saturday telling players, coaches and other employees that they may not go to a Super Bowl party outside their own home. And if they do watch with others, keep the invite list basically to family only.
Teams spending Sunday on the road will not be permitted to leave their hotel to watch the Kansas City-Tampa Bay game, according to the memo obtained by The Associated Press. Watching in a pre-arranged, private area with a small number of family members who have been tested is permitted under certain circumstances, the NBA said. There are five games on Super Sunday: Washington at Charlotte, Miami at New York, Utah at Indiana, Boston at Phoenix and Sacramento at the Los Angeles Clippers. All will start between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern, meaning all should be done long before kickoff between the Chiefs and Buccaneers.
Marc J. Spears: Nets Status Report for tonight's game at Philadelphia: Durant (health and safety protocols) - QUESTIONABLE.
After a confounding night surrounding the status of Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant at the Barclays Center -- which included him getting pulled out of the lineup in the pregame and third quarter for contact-tracing protocols -- Durant won't travel to Philadelphia for Saturday's game and could be lost for multiple games for the second time in a month, sources tell ESPN. Durant had come into contact with an associate on Friday who tested positive for the coronavirus Friday night, just hours after returning an inconclusive test shortly before the Nets' 123-117 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Durant contracted the coronavirus in March and still had those antibodies in early January when he was lost for four games because of contact tracing. Four weeks later, Durant could be lost for a similar six-day stretch, sources said. After Friday's game, Nash said that he struggled, at times, to compartmentalize Durant's absence during the game.
Shams Charania: Statement from NBA on Kevin Durant situation: Kevin Durant has tested negative three times in the last 24 hours, including two negative PCR tests today. However, someone he interacted with this afternoon subsequently had an inconclusive test result return shortly before the game. Durant was initially held out of the game while that result was being reviewed. Under the league's health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test. During the game, a positive result was returned for the person Durant interacted with this afternoon. Once that test was confirmed positive, out of an abundance of caution, Durant was removed from the game, and contact tracing is underway to determine if he was in fact a close contact of the positive individual.
Brian Floyd: Can everyone stop saying things like “out of an abundance of caution”?We’re just saying words that don’t match actions for PR over and over at this point. Kevin Durant: Yo @nba, your fans aren’t dumb!!!! You can’t fool em with your Wack ass PR tactics.. #FREE7
“I was frustrated, especially [since] we follow the protocols, we get tested every single day, so I don’t understand the whole thing where he couldn’t play and then he came on a court, and then they took him back. There’s just a lot going on. There’s too much going on. It’s kind of overwhelming,” said James Harden, who broached the question of whether the game should’ve been called altogether.
Shams Charania: Nets‘ Kevin Durant is out for the remainder of the Raptors game due to health and safety protocols.
Malika Andrews: Kevin Durant is out for the remainder of the game due to health and safety protocols. After missing the beginning of the game and subsequently being cleared to play, Durant is unable to play at the direction of the league, a source told ESPN.
Michael Scotto: Kevin Durant will not be available to start tonight’s game due to health and safety protocols, Nets say.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Kevin Durant is undergoing contact tracing, sources tell @Malika Andrews and me.
The Grizzlies will get back Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen on Saturday after both spent time in the league's health and safety protocols. Neither player was listed on the team's injury report Friday, which means both will be available for Saturday's game at the New Orleans Pelicans.
NBA to set up mandatory meetings between medical experts and teams to assuage COVID-19 vaccine concerns
Dr. Leroy Sims, the NBA’s senior vice president of medical affairs, will meet via Zoom with every team between now and Feb. 19, according to a league memo obtained by The Athletic, for the express purpose of reflecting “on his experience as an emergency medicine physician during the COVID-19 pandemic and his COVID-19 vaccination — to promote greater understanding and awareness regarding league-wide and public vaccination initiatives.” With so many players in need of information and insight on this front, sources say teams asked league officials for assistance when it came to vaccine education.
In short, the NBA wants its basketball people — players, coaches, referees and chief front office personnel — to get the shots, potentially as part of a national volunteering-public relations campaign. But a large majority of the players are African-American, a community that has been known to be distrustful of vaccines, in large part, because of the shameful history of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and other examples of worse treatment and outcomes for Black men and women in encounters with the medical community than whites received.
Dane Moore: Karl-Anthony Towns will NOT play on Friday in Oklahoma City. KAT has been with the team, on the bench, for the past two games, but he continues to be listed as “OUT — health and safety protocols”
An executive who spoke to TrueHoop says he had a most unusual conversation with a high-powered agent. Like the Warriors, his team had been ravaged by injuries and needed fast help. The call began in standard fashion: The executive asked if such-and-such free-agent clients were in shape and ready to go. The agent replied yes, several of them were. Good. They went back and forth on some candidates, but both could sense that neither had asked the real question. Nobody had addressed the elephant in the room. Finally, the agent blurted it out: “Remember … he’s had COVID-19 already. He might be, um, more employable for you.”
An agent told TrueHoop that he heard from the Celtics, who were looking for, in the agent’s words, “a free agent center who had recently recovered from COVID-19.” An NBA general manager who spoke with TrueHoop put it this way: “[Getting COVID-19] is, unfortunately, like getting a FastPass at Disney World.”
The executive who told the story above found himself considering the logical extension of this dilemma: If you’re just outside the NBA and dreaming of a call-up, is there an argument to get infected? Some team officials make analogous comments: If COVID is going to rage through a team at some point this season, is it better now than in the middle of a playoff run? Another NBA source says, “I guarantee those conversations are happening in locker rooms.”
Marc Stein: "This is one shot I won't block." -- Celtics legend @RealBillRussell takes the COVID-19 vaccine in the NBA's latest PSA ... joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Gregg Popovich in the league's campaign: youtube.com/watch?v=CfOG24…
Shams Charania: Zero NBA players tested positive for coronavirus out of 482 tested since Jan. 27, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
Iman Shumpert — signed Saturday but still awaiting clearance to join the team — has been idle for far longer. He hasn’t played an NBA game since Dec. 11, 2019, with the Nets. He’d been working out in Atlanta and has said he’d only need a week to get game-fit, but that could be ambitious. If he keeps posting negative COVID-19 tests he could be cleared to join the team by this weekend, according to a source.
Barry Jackson: Tyler Herro said his COVID scare was from his girlfriend's false positive. She subsequently tested negative twice, thus allowing him to play yesterday and moving forward. Herro has said he had COVID last year, before the Disney bubble.
Kevin O'Connor: Yeah, it certainly seems that way. It seems to be trending in that direction, where we're gonna see, you know, a group of games canceled, so teams don't have to deal with that hassle. And, you know, I've had conversations with a handful of executives in the past week where the conversation has started to shift at least among teams, not necessarily in the league office. But like, is there logic here to having a short term bubble until it's to the point where you can get vaccines for players and coaches and people who work on those teams and travel? Because what they're doing right now doesn't seem to be working that well.
Kevin O'Connor: [...] Some front office executives and coaches or from conversations I've had previously, were like 'a bubble shouldn't happen, won't happen,' have now said, 'Well, maybe it should happen for at least a period of time until you can get vaccinations and all that.' Ryan McDonough: Well, yes, I have heard that as well, Kevin. And that's one of the other options. It's very difficult logistically to pull off in a short period of time, because there's, you know, a shutdown on March 11.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Detroit Pistons are departing Denver for Salt Lake City, where they're expected to be able to play their scheduled game with the Jazz on Tuesday, sources tell ESPN. Pistons stayed in Denver, retesting players after postponement vs. Nuggets tonight.
James Edwards III: Hearing the test in question was a false positive for the #Pistons. Team is headed to Utah and expected to play.
Omari Sanfoka II: Someone within the Pistons organization tested positive, I'm told. With four games left on their road trip, unclear what the rest of the trip will look like. Depends on contact tracing
Mike Singer: Source: The positive/inconclusive on the Pistons was NOT Mason Plumlee or Jerami Grant, who multiple Nuggets players interacted with.
Dane Moore: Ryan Saunders said both Karl-Anthony Towns and Juancho Hernangomez are "progressing" in their recoveries. Saunders also said "you want practice time" before a return. The Wolves play back-to-backs or every other day all month, so that practice time may be tough to come by.
Darren Wolfson: #Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to @Minn_Sports on KAT's playing status: “I would think it would be this week, yes.” KAT is out tonight, but is on the road trip.
Dane Moore: Juancho Hernangomez, who has been in health and safety protocols for weeks, is questionable to play tonight in Cleveland. Karl-Anthony Towns remains out in the health and safety protocols.
The Miami Heat is again facing uncertainty because of the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Heat guard Tyler Herro is listed as questionable for Monday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Sun) due to protocols. Herro was not with the team for practice Sunday.
Washington is tied for the worst winning percentage in the Eastern Conference, but it’s also only three games back of No. 7. It has about as many losses as all the teams in the bottom nine, since it skipped those six postponed games. Its modest goal remains sneaking into the play-in tournament. Talk to people inside the organization about the recent bout with COVID, and a supposed silver lining will often follow all the necessary complaints about the awfulness of that whole situation: At least it gave Westbrook time to rest, they’ll say, searching for some kind of optimism.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro revealed after a 105-104 win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night that he learned a housemate has tested positive for COVID-19. Herro said he got that news at halftime and was uncertain if he will have to quarantine because of possible exposure. His revelation came on the same night All-Star forward Jimmy Butler returned after missing 10 games because of the NBA's health and safety protocols established for safe play during the coronavirus pandemic. Butler scored a season-high 30 points after missing 12 of Miami's 18 games because of virus-related issues, as the Heat ended a five-game losing streak.
The Heat also didn't play Kendrick Nunn on Saturday because he was awaiting a COVID-19 test result when the game started. Nunn was cleared by the second quarter and could have played, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra elected to not use him. "We were waiting for his test results," Spoelstra said, as quoted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "At that point he wasn't available in the first quarter, so I went a different direction. ... It's just one of those unfortunate things. I guess if those type of things are going to happen, it'll happen to us."
The Grizzlies return Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Southeast) but they won't be at full strength. Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen won't be available as both are in the NBA's health and safety protocols per the team's injury released Friday. Valanciunas has been sidelined since Jan. 17. Valanciunas, however, has rejoined the Grizzlies on this road trip. He posted a video on Twitter of him walking to the team plane as he said that he's recovered from COVID-19.
He could be available on Monday against the Spurs or Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers but the Grizzlies are likely showing the same caution they had with De'Anthony Melton when he entered the league's COVID-19 protocols last month..
Paul George said he was "super relieved" that he and Kawhi Leonard are healthy after having to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols. George and Leonard were cleared from protocol and returned to help the visiting LA Clippers cruise past the Orlando Magic 116-90 on Friday. "We were playing so well, it was unfortunate that we had to take a hiatus, but safety's first," George said. "We acknowledge that first and foremost."
Lasry said he didn't receive special treatment because of his position with the Bucks, his political aspirations or his father's wealth. "That has nothing to do with anything," Lasry told the newspaper. "Honestly, if I wasn't married to Lauren, I don't know that I would have gotten a call or known about it." Evers said he would rather see providers administer vaccine outside the priority phases than let it go to waste, saying the number of doses administered outside the protocols is going to be a tiny percentage of all inoculations.
Tom Orsborn: Pop on why he did the COVID-19 vaccine PSA: "We are in dire circumstances. It’s kind of amazing to me that there’s a swath of our population that still doesn’t believe that. But somebody a whole lot more incisive and smarter is going to have to figure that one out. If we can do our part in any way in making people feel comfortable that getting this shot is wise both for them and everybody else around them, I think we need to do it."
Alex Lasry, a 33-year-old Milwaukee Bucks executive and son of a billionaire, received the coronavirus vaccine this week at a senior living center in Milwaukee despite not being part of a group currently eligible for the shots in Wisconsin. Lasry told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he "just got lucky" and didn't receive any favoritism.
The New York City native, who is a hedge fund manager, is considering running for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin in 2022. He was also host committee chair for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was awarded to Milwaukee but then moved online due to the pandemic. Lasry, son of Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, said his wife, Lauren, got a call Monday from her uncle, who is rabbi at Ovation Chai Point Senior Living, saying the senior living center had some extra, unused vaccine doses.
The Jump: "We didn't practice for 9 days. When we did practice, we had 8 guys. Beal has been leading us. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel" - Brooks #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #DCAboveAll pic.twitter.com/YuamTVy82v
Anthony Chiang: On 1:30 p.m. injury report, Jimmy Butler (protocols), Goran Dragic (left groin strain) and Tyler Herro (neck spasms) are questionable for tonight's game vs. Clippers. But now Duncan Robinson (quad contusion) is also questionable.
Tom Orsborn: In an NBA-produced PSA, Pop, who turned 72 today, said of getting the COVID-19 vaccine: "It will keep me safe, keep my family safe and keep other people safe....Science-wise, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the right thing to do so we can all get on track again. Let’s do this together."
Late Wednesday afternoon, days after what would have been the biggest game of the season [...] the Cleveland Cavaliers held a Zoom call with key state officials in hopes of boosting their attendance even more than the nearly 2,000 currently allowed.