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.”
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.
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.”
Fred Katz: Scott Brooks is out of the health and safety protocols and will coach tonight, he says.
Fred Katz: The Wizards have no one in the health and safety protocols anymore, Scott Brooks says. Four players missed practice yesterday because they were in the protocols, as did Brooks.
Shams Charania: Two NBA players tested positive for coronavirus out of 465 tested since March 3, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
Keith Smith: Brad Stevens: "Everyone practiced but Romeo (Langford). He's out due to health and safety protocols. He's cleared to play and practice, but he's out due to that." Stevens said Langford would have been able to play tomorrow, if not out due to protocols.
Myles said his father has made a full recovery, and thanked the hospital by donating $50,000 to their COVID-19 response fund. After witnessing what his father went through, Myles was skeptical of entering the NBA bubble in Orlando. But after doing research and getting advice from close friends and family, he committed to the 2020 restart and now the modified 2020-21 season. "We're not going out to restaurants. We're not at clubs, lounges and we're not out with a normal social life. So we take it very seriously," Myles said. "Because you don't want to be that one person that messes it up for everybody."
Jones Sr. was among the first people in Michigan to contract the coronavirus, testing positive on March 25. He was quickly admitted to the hospital and died just a day later. In his honor, Bridges partnered with Josh Jackson of the Detroit Pistons and Terry Armstrong, who played last season in Australia, to sponsor families from the church this past Christmas, giving clothes, toys and shoes. "[Pastor Jones] was really a big inspiration to me because I grew up and I was living [with Jones' family] for a little while -- for like a whole summer I was staying there," Bridges said. "It was just a place for me to get away because he lived in the suburbs and I needed a getaway when I didn't want to be in the hood to go there. They just treated me like family."
Both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are quarantining for seven days from their last exposure, a Sixers team official said. As long as each continues to test negative for COVID-19, Embiid will be cleared to return once he receives a lab-based PCR negative result on Friday, while Simmons will be cleared Saturday should he meet the same criteria. The Sixers play the Bulls Thursday in Chicago and face the Wizards Friday in Washington, D.C., before playing their first game at Wells Fargo Center with fans in attendance for over a year Sunday against the Spurs.
RJ Marquez: Derrick White and Rudy Gay are no longer listed on the Spurs injury report and should be available for Wed. game at Dallas. Devin Vassell remains out for post heath and safety protocols reconditioning. SA tips off second half of season vs Mavs. #KSATsports #NBA
Shams Charania: 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are required to quarantine until Friday and Saturday, respectively, due to contact tracing, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. It rules Embiid out of Thursday game, and Simmons out of Thursday and Friday.
Shams Charania: As long as each continues to test negative, Joel Embiid will be available to play on Friday at Washington and Ben Simmons will be clear to return on Saturday. Both Embiid and Simmons received seven-day quarantines due to exposure to individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
Bob Cousy, who won six NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, is old friends with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the preeminent scientist in the nation's fight against COVID-19. About two hours before getting the news about the vaccine, Cousy had spoken to Fauci on the phone. When asked if Fauci played a part in getting him the vaccine, Cousy was his usual straight-talking, self-effacing self: “Tony is busy saving the freakin’ world every day," Cousy told The Palm Beach Post. "I can’t imagine."
Cousy, who has lived in West Palm Beach for 35 years but this winter remained at his home in Worcester, Mass., said the only time the vaccine came up in their conversation was when Fauci asked if he had received it. Cousy told him he had not but he was not worried about it and his daughter was working on it. “I wasn't concerned but I simply answered his question and that was the extent of it,” Cousy said. “He didn’t say anything further."
“For the last 30 years, on a few occasions when I was being interviewed, sometimes people would say, ‘Who are your heroes?’ ” Cousy said. “I would say Dr. Anthony Fauci and they’d look at me like, ‘what the hell is a Dr. Anthony Fauci?’ Well, now the whole world knows who Dr. Anthony Fauci is."
Brian Windhorst on the All-Star Weekend: A lot of people were talking about 'boy this is a potential super-spreader event, blah, blah...' I don't think so at all. The place NBA was worried about wasn't Atlanta: It was Miami. Last I heard, there were around 150 players who were planning to be in Miami this past weekend. And the reason the NBA knows is because the players had to have a COVID test while there, and they had to sign up for them, so the NBA had an accurate account of how many.
I was told it was in the neighborhood of 150 players in Miami over the weekend. I don't know for sure but I think the testing site was the Heat's facility. They had to give the players a schedule. It was drive-though and they had multiple lanes, and they had to give the players a schedule, like 'come at this time to get your COVID test'.
Adam Silver, N.B.A. commissioner. We were tracking it closely because of our business in China and because we have offices in Shanghai and Beijing, which we closed on Jan. 23. On Jan. 29, the Brooklyn Nets had a Chinese New Year celebration. I ran into Dr. David Ho, a virologist. I remember him saying to me, “It’s a very bad sign that Chinatown in New York is empty because you at least have a portion of the population who knows how bad this is, even if other people aren’t talking about it.”
Silver: I had just left the office, and our general counsel called me. I was on my way home, and he called and said that we’ve just gotten this positive test of Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. I didn’t say in that sentence, “Shut everything down.” I wanted to hear what the recommendation was of the Oklahoma state health commissioner. I also spoke to Sam Presti, the Thunder president, and Clay Bennett, the Thunder owner, in the next 10 minutes because we all knew the players were taking the floor for the game in Oklahoma City.
Silver: I sat in the car in front of my apartment building for about another 10 minutes, and I made the decision that we were going to cancel that game. One of the officials that was working the New Orleans-Sacramento game had worked one of the Jazz games earlier. As soon as I had a few more minutes to think about what was happening, it then became obvious we needed to cancel that game. Then we put out a notice that we were putting the season on pause until we had additional information. Until that moment, it felt like there would have been an opportunity to deal with a single case on an isolated basis.
Alex Rodriguez, ESPN commentator and a 14-time M.L.B. all-star. We’ve all experienced some pretty terrible things, whether it was 9/11 or a hurricane or something like that, and usually after it happens you shut down for a week or two and then get back to normal life. So I was thinking that was what would happen, here, too. I remember talking to a lot of different people, and we all had one thing in common: We were all completely clueless. No one knew what was going on. I spoke to Jerry Reinsdorf [the owner of baseball’s Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls of the N.B.A.] and he said, “This is going to take a while.” That’s when it hit me: This isn’t something that will be over in a week.
Gary Washburn: NBA spokesman: “All players, coaches, and game officials were tested for COVID 3 times after arriving in ATL, including a final test immediately prior to All-Star Game. Each of those tests returned a negative result, confirming no one on the court for (the) events was infected.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Players, coaches and officials COVID test results all returned negative from All-Star Game on Sunday, league spokesman tells ESPN. No on-court infections in Atlanta. Everyone was tested three times in Atlanta, including post-game last night.
In all, the Sixers will play five games in the seven-day stretch between March 11 and March 17. Depending on when the clock for Embiid and Simmons’ stints in the health and safety protocol starts, that would put them in real jeopardy of missing the trip against the Bulls and the Wizards. If Embiid and Simmons are out more than a week — either because of a longer-than-anticipated stint in the health and safety protocol, or the far more concerning possibility that they test positive over the next few days — the Sixers’ hectic start to the second half-schedule could leave them woefully short-handed for a decent chunk of games.
Philadelphia 76ers teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons missed the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, with the league announcing the decision earlier Sunday. The two had contact with a barber who has since tested positive for the coronavirus, sources told ESPN. The barber, located in the Philadelphia area, tested positive after undergoing additional testing on Sunday because of an inconclusive positive test, sources said.
Mark Medina: LeBron James said he has been extremely disciplined with the NBA"s health and safety protocols. But he attributed being able to avoid a positive test & contact tracing so far to "luck." LeBron: "I'm not a COVID ghostbuster or anything like that."
Mark Medina: LeBron James on if he plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it's available for him: "That's a conversation my family and I will have. I'll keep that to a private thing."
Fred Katz: Bradley Beal says he agrees the Wizards shouldn't have fans for now: “My biggest concern is safety…I’m not sitting here and saying I don’t miss the fans. It definitely changes the dynamic of the game…But safety is the biggest concern. And it’s more for them."
Tom Moore: #Sixers coach Doc Rivers: 'I want to really push (the #NBA players to get the COVID vaccine) for the coaches. The sooner they can get the vaccine, the better.'
Gerald Bourguet: Chris Paul on getting vaccinated: "I think all of these situations are personal-type decisions." Says they'll keep talking about it in the NBPA but doesn't see any kind of mandate coming
Ira Winderman: Adam Silver says a vaccinated player likely would not have to quarantine as a close contact, which potentially could significantly reduce such absences. Says no players, to his knowledge, currently vaccinated.
Mark Medina: Adam Silver: "there is no player that I am aware of that has been vaccinated yet." Adam added there have been some coaches and team employees that have been vaccinated because they met the age criteria
Spurs forward Keldon Johnson’s assessment of his bout with the COVID-19 virus is the stuff of a surgeon general’s warning. “I would say it sucked,” Johnson said. Having returned to the court after a 15-day layoff because of the coronavirus and its aftereffects, Johnson is glad to report he is feeling better now. “I am doing amazing,” Johnson said before Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City. “Couldn’t feel any better.”
For Johnson — a 21-year-old coach Gregg Popovich once likened to a “wild mustang” — it meant an even more arduous path through the NBA’s health and safety protocols. “The first day was probably the worst day,” Johnson said. “I felt a little weak, had a little headache. I stayed in bed all day.”
As far as surprises go, Johnson’s selection to the Rising Stars roster was more pleasant than his COVID-19 diagnosis. “We were definitely surprised,” Johnson said. “It just happens. We take so many protocols to avoid COVID, and to have so many players come up with it, it sucked.” Johnson and the other infected players formed a sort of support group during their time in quarantine. “We definitely stayed in touch,” Johnson said. “Everybody called and checked on me and made sure I was all good. We were in each other’s corner.”
Sanford Health will conduct on-site COVID-19 testing of players, coaches and staff for this weekend’s NBA All-Star 2021 events in Atlanta. The event features players from the NBA competing in the Skills Competition, 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and All-Star Game. Sanford Health lab techs will travel to Atlanta in one of the mobile testing units that was used for PGA TOUR testing. Sanford Health estimates it will run between 500-750 tests for the event. The time it takes to collect and process the tests is generally 90 minutes.
Duane Rankin: #Suns injury report vs. Warriors. Cameron Johnson (health and safety protocols) OUT
Heart inflammation is uncommon in pro athletes who’ve had mostly mild COVID-19 and most don’t need to be sidelined, a study conducted by major professional sports leagues suggests.
The results are not definitive, outside experts say, and more independent research is needed. But the study published Thursday in JAMA Cardiology is the largest to examine the potential problem. The coronavirus can cause inflammation in many organs, including the heart.
The research involved professional athletes who play football, hockey, soccer, baseball and men’s and women’s basketball. All tested positive for COVID-19 before October and were given guideline-recommended heart tests, nearly 800 total. None had severe COVID-19 and 40% had few or no symptoms — what might be expected from a group of healthy elite athletes with an average age of 25. Severe COVID-19 is more common in older people and those with chronic health conditions.
Almost 4% had abnormal results on heart tests done after they recovered but subsequent MRI exams found heart inflammation in less than 1% of the athletes. These five athletes all had COVID-19 symptoms. Whether their heart problems were caused by the virus is unknown although the researchers think that is likely. They were sidelined for about three months and returned to play without any problems, said Dr. Mathew Martinez of Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. He’s the study’s lead author and team cardiologist for football’s New York Jets.
Marc Stein: As part of the NBA’s attempts to create a two-day Atlanta bubble, All-Star regulations call for all participants, guests and those granted access to the official league hotel to be checked in by 7 PM Saturday and to stay at the hotel until Sunday's game, sources tell @NYTSports.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Seven new positive NBA COVID tests in the past week, source tells ESPN.
The Detroit Pistons announced plans today to place a limited number of tickets on sale beginning when the club plays the Toronto Raptors on March 17 at Little Caesars Arena. Working under direction of state and local government health professionals and guidelines, up to 750 fans will be allowed to attend upcoming games in this initial phase. Tickets will go on sale Thursday morning, March 4 at 10:00 a.m.
Steve Popper: According to a source, Knicks guard Derrick Rose’s test yesterday was inconclusive, which caused him to miss the San Antonio game for health and safety protocols. He’s had multiple negative test results since and has been cleared to fly home with the team.
Ian Begley: Derrick Rose’s COVID test on Tuesday was inconclusive, source confirms, which is why he was unable to play in NYK’s loss to SAS. Rose has had several negative test results since the inconclusive result, so he’s clear to fly to NY with team, source says. First reported by Newsday
The San Antonio Spurs will begin welcoming back some fans to games March 12, meaning half of the NBA now has a plan in place to allow limited attendance a year and a day after it shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. A 16th team, the Boston Celtics, have a plan to welcome back fans March 22. The Spurs' reduced capacity at the AT&T Center will be at 3,200 fans to allow for proper social distancing, the team said Monday.
Michael Singer: Facu Campazzo has been added to the Nuggets' injury report as doubtful due to contact tracing, source tells @denverpost. The Nuggets can appeal this decision, but it's likely he'll be out for tonight vs. Chicago. Will likely join RJ Hampton and Markus Howard as out.
Michael Singer: The #Nuggets are still awaiting the results from their contact tracing, I'm told. As of now, only Markus Howard (contact tracing) and R.J. Hampton (health and safety) are out.
Kyle Neubeck: According to sources familiar with the situation, lifting of state event restrictions by Governor Wolf today does not yet mean fans at WFC. Sixers still need the city to follow suit, but if/when they do, fans could *potentially* be back following the All Star break.
State Farm Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks, has implemented the latest in drone technology as a part of the venue’s cleaning and disinfecting protocols. The award-winning arena has enlisted Lucid Drone Technologies, a cutting-edge drone company based out of Charlotte, NC and its D1 Disinfecting Drone (D1) to help in sanitizing the 17,500 seat venue between events, a first for any NBA arena.
Jim Owczarski: #Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said he did test positive for COVID-19 & he was symptomatic. Fatigue & the loss of taste & smell were not fun to go through. He also thought he was done for the game when he came out with a few minutes left & was thankful he was able to finish it out.
May 22, 2022 | 2:29 pm EDT Update
Jay King: Grant Williams: “Sometimes I feel like we get sped up in a sense of aggressiveness.” He said the Celtics need to have better offensive execution and need to be more locked in on that side of the ball.