Harrison Wind: Malone says he can’t wait for the day where he wakes up and doesn’t have to worry about what time he has to get to the arena for a COVID test: “I think this year has been the hardest year in my 20 years in the NBA.”
On a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, a few weeks after he was traded to the Nuggets, Aaron Gordon sat in the hotel room he was temporarily living out of and reflected on the most challenging season NBA players had ever dealt with. While bouncing around the country as a deadly transmittable virus continued to spread, players had been contending with health and safety protocols that induced isolation, obliterated daily routines and separated them from partners, children, friends and family. Novel stressors had been stacked on top of the countless professional and personal reasons players might feel anxious during any typical season.
Meanwhile, their bodies were being ground down by the compressed 72-game schedule. The physical injuries potentially caused by such a grueling endeavor have received ample attention; no shortage of media hands have been wrung over Kevin Durant’s strained hamstring, LeBron James’s high ankle sprain or Jamal Murray’s torn ACL. But comparatively little notice has been paid to an unseen element of players’ well-being, one affected as much if not more by this season’s atypically harsh conditions: mental health. “Although we have special gifts and talents that make us seem more than human, at the end of the day we’re just people,” Gordon says. “With the same struggles and the same sufferings, the same day-to-day anxieties and insecurities that the rest of the world is going through.”
As Gordon sat in his hotel room, the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd was days away from reaching a verdict, after weeks of heartbreaking testimony from eyewitnesses and Floyd’s loved ones. All season—and long before it began—relentless signs of racial inequality were “a constant strain on my mental health,” Gordon said. “I’m employed by the NBA. My job is to come out and compete and help my team win. But there’s just certain things that you can’t get out of your mind. It’s another reason why I do all of this mental health and mental training, because of how unfairly America treats Black men and Black women. And we’re still expected to come out, compete and act as if it’s not happening. It’s strenuous. Daily.”
NBA players are not a monolith, making it impossible to know precisely how mental health has affected their ability to perform this year. And there are innumerable variables that go into any game’s final score, with mental health being just one. But it’s also impossible to imagine a scenario where some thoughts and emotions felt off the floor would not carry over onto it. This was a season, after all, that featured notably uneven play: For most of this year, particularly after the All-Star break, the percentage of games that ended in a blowout was dramatically higher than usual.
“On the court, you want to be icey. You want to be really cool. You want to be composed,” Gordon says. “And when your mental is not right on the court, you do stupid things, like get technical fouls or compound mistakes. Like, say you miss a shot, you’re mad that you missed a shot so you turn around and foul somebody 80 feet away from the basket.”
Largely thanks to the need for teams and the league to preserve privacy, there is no available data on whether more players have taken advantage of mental health resources or whether they have experienced mental illness in greater numbers this season (according to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association in November, 74% of psychologists reported seeing more patients with anxiety disorders compared to before the pandemic; 60% said the same for depression disorders). Anecdotally, though, in interviews with psychologists, psychiatrists and licensed mental health professionals who have experience treating NBA players, all agree that the need for help has swelled.
“The normal pressures that every player has had to contend with have been increasing in proportions that frighten me, frankly,” says Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). She adds that more players have called her about mental health resources in the past eight months than in her previous seven years on the job. “They’re expected to go out two or three times a week, perform at the highest level, and at the same time be husbands, fathers, boyfriends, sons, and on top of that deal with normal consequences of living in a pandemic. … We as a community don’t allow athletes the space to be vulnerable, and that’s wrong. They have as much right to be vulnerable as the rest of us. And in some ways, unlike many of us, they’ve got more reasons to be vulnerable.”
Shams Charania: When reached for comment on difference between Porzingis-LeBron James‘ situation, NBA spokesman Mike Bass: “While we understand the inclination to compare this incident to protocol violations by other players, including LeBron James, those facts are very different." Statement: pic.twitter.com/MxbeDkVQz4
Ira Winderman: Erik Spoelstra, on being allowed to work the sidelines without a mask, "It feels like in so many ways, there's just been these incremental steps back to normalcy. And then, all of a sudden, and even in the last 24 hours, it just feels like there've been some big moves.
Ira Winderman: Erik Spoelstra, on the Heat expanding their home playoff seating to 17,000, "I think that'd be exciting for the fans, for our players, the organization. You just start to see more and more signs that things are coming around. It brings you a great deal of hope, just in general."
Just in time for the playoffs, the NBA told its head coaches Saturday they may work without masks during games if they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Assistant coaches and players will still be required to wear masks in the bench area. Head coaches may choose to go without masks after pre-game introductions through halftime, then again after halftime until the game concludes.
The memo, sent Saturday morning just a few hours before the postseason opener between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks and obtained by The Associated Press, also said that head coaches will have to wear masks during halftime, during warmups and shootaround before the start of the third quarter and postgame. If opposing coaches choose to meet briefly on the court after a game, masks are encouraged.
Adrian Wojnarowski: LeBron James won't be suspended for protocols violation, sources tell ESPN. Nature of event didn't rise to a threat level of virus spread, as described in @McTen 's story below. Suns-Lakers Game 1 on Sunday.
Shams Charania: Fully-vaccinated NBA head coaches are no longer required to wear facemasks when coaching games, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. This is in light of vaccination rates among coaches and recent CDC guidance.
Connor Letourneau: Steve Kerr said Damion Lee scrimmaged the past few days, both 3-on-3 and 5-on-5. He will be active tonight, but Kerr said Lee probably won't play.
Meanwhile, as cities across the country ease restrictions on movement and gathering as the number of vaccinations for COVID-19 increases, Silver stopped short of committing to completely full arenas by the time the NBA Finals roll around in July. And while seats around the court will remain in fewer numbers than normal, he expressed confidence that there will be far more fans than he expected in the seats as the playoffs move along. "I think it's very possible that come July, when our Finals will be, you'll see essentially full buildings," said Silver, who added that "close to 80%" of all NBA players have had COVID-19 vaccinations.
Ryan Russillo: I know everybody can kind of look at certain elements of the season where it was challenging, but what happened to you guys you think? Nick Nurse: Well, I think that there were a number of hurdles to jump, you know, right from the start with relocating everyone. A bit of a roster flip. You know, we lost a couple of very experienced, very good pieces to free agency in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. And then you know, I think it was bumpy to get through. We started playing really well, Ryan. I think we won two at Brooklyn, we won two at Milwaukee, we came back and beat Philly at home (...) We were in fourth in the East and then we got wiped out by COVID and the protocols. I think, seven players and seven staff and then a couple more players a little later, and that would take a lot longer than the 14-day kind of sit out. We just didn't feel quite right, myself included. And then, and then we had a month that was just like... we were almost wiped off, and we just never really recovered.
Joe Mussatto: Presti on not allowing fans this season: "The easy decision economically would've been to open the doors." He noted the decision was made when cases were rising in Oklahoma.
Tony East: Bjorkgren confirms LeVert is out tonight. That's all he is able to comment at this time. Bjorkgren learned that LeVert would be unavailable this morning, nobody else in the Pacers org will miss the game. Bjorkgren says he talked with LeVert on the phone and LeVert is "crushed".
Noah Levick: Since testing positive for COVID-19 in January, Seth Curry said he's felt "a little bit differently as a whole, and just the way I breathe at times is a little bit different — a little more fatigued." Curry said he's "pretty much healthy" and trying to be patient with himself.
Shams Charania: Just in: Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert is expected to miss tonight’s Play-In Tournament game vs. the Charlotte Hornets due to health and safety protocols, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
Levert is expected to be sidelined for multiple games as the expected timeline to return is at least 10-14 days, sources added.
Adam Spolane: Stephen Silas says he and his team will still have to take COVID tests tomorrow. He thinks its so they can do contact tracing on playoff teams if a positive comes up
The Golden State Warriors are trying to make it as easy as possible for fans to enjoy games at Chase Center, by offering free COVID-19 tests to those who don’t have proof of vaccination. “We’re making this super simple for fans,” said Yoyo Chan, vice president of community relations for the Warriors. “We’re requiring fans demonstrate negative COVID test results taken within 48 hours of tip off.”
The team is offering free tests that can be picked up from Chase Center or the Warriors’ Oakland facility. The Warriors will also provide free, self-administered tests on-site at the Chase Center for fans who sign up for a test when they purchase their game tickets.
Jared Weiss: Evan Fournier says since getting the first shot of vaccine, his long COVID symptoms are getting much better. But he is still feeling the symptoms a bit, especially during warmups. He is still waiting to get his second shot and hopes he'll be back to 100% then.
For the entirety of the 2020-21 NBA season, Tripp and four other people — Eboni Edmondson, Keyur Patel, Crystal Brown and Ebony Jackson (all with some experience in the medical field) — were hired by BioReference, the company that partnered with the NBA in order to maintain safe and healthy practices amid what would likely a turbulent season, to be COVID testers for the Pistons. These testers were who the players reported to first thing in the morning. They were the last faces the players saw before returning to their families or hotel rooms. Days were random. Days were long. They were at the mercy of the NBA, its schedule, and strict protocols. Testing twice a day. Before practice. After practice. Before a game. After a game. At home. On the road. If the Pistons’ plane landed back in Detroit at 2 a.m. from a road trip, sometimes that meant these workers would get three hours of sleep before they were back at the practice facility by 7 a.m.
Jason Anderson: De'Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes will not play again this season, per Luke Walton.
Around 75% of the NBA's players have been vaccinated, sources said, and commissioner Adam Silver continues to appeal to front-office executives to encourage further player participation ahead of the start of the playoffs next week. Beyond the broader health benefits of vaccinations, sources said, Silver outlined on a recent call with the league's GMs the concern that all playoff-bound teams share: Losing a key player for a week could decide a playoff series.
Rod Boone: Sources: Miles Bridges expected to return to the lineup for #Hornets against the Knicks on Saturday. si.com/nba/hornets/ne…
Ben Anderson: The @Utah Jazz announced that 13,000 fans will be in attendance during home playoff games. #TakeNote kslsports.com/?p=459386
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA and NBPA are discussing modifications to the health and safety protocols in light of CDC guidance that fully-vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a facemask or physically distance except in certain settings. In meantime, current protocols remain in place.
Clutch Points: “I’m back 😈😈😈” - Dennis Schroder on Instagram 👀 pic.twitter.com/YsccL6nqs4
The league continues to monitor every potential impact coronavirus could have on its players. Discussions are near constant and have included the possibility of delaying playoff games in the instance of positive tests, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Those conversations have not gone so far to set a tipping point. Teams with fewer vaccinated players are naturally at greater risk of seeing cases spread among teammates.
Former University of Michigan star, NBA standout and EPSN analyst Jalen Rose was back home Thursday. He was at his Jalen Rose Leadership Academy for a pop-up vaccination event in Detroit.
Rose takes his Detroit roots seriously and wants to set an example in a demographic that has been somewhat hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. "There are people that have apprehension toward whether they should get vaccinated or not," Rose said. "I did. And the reason why I did, because I hope to get back to some sense of normalcy."
Shams Charania: Sources: NBA, NBPA have added updates to protocols for COVID-19 fully-vaccinated individuals: - Rideshares and taxis allowed - No face shields in treatment sessions - On teams where 85% of players and staff vaccinated: hot/cold tubs and steam rooms permitted for multiple people
Over the last three weeks, De’Aaron Fox has endured headaches, body aches, chills and a serious case of restlessness, while helplessly watching his Kings fade from the playoff race without him. A particularly potent strain of the coronavirus walloped Fox on April 22 and has kept the Kings’ star point guard quarantined at home ever since. (He is expected to be cleared for basketball activities soon, assuming he passes NBA protocols.) In the meantime, Sacramento lost rookie stud Tyrese Haliburton to a season-ending knee injury.
First, Fox has to get out of the league’s health and safety protocols. The coronavirus “hit me like a truck,” he said, with headaches, body aches, chills and dehydration. It also hit his fiancé, former Cal point guard Recee Caldwell, though both are fine now. They’ve passed the time in quarantine watching a lot of TV and engaging in daily battles of Ping-Pong. (“It gets competitive, because the scores are usually super close,” Fox said.)
Chase Hughes: The D.C. Mayor's office has approved a waiver for the Wizards and Caps to begin allowing 25% capacity that will go into effect on May 14, I'm told. Details are still being ironed out, but looking good for Wizards' final home games and Caps playoffs.
Alex Schiffer: Nic Claxton, who missed seven games due to health and safety protocols said he tested positive for COVID-19 but didn't have symptoms. Had to quarantine in Miami and had just a bike and 40-pound weight to work out with.
The Orlando Magic are offering the coronavirus vaccine to as many as 2,300 Central Florida residents next week, becoming the latest NBA team to host such an event. The Magic partnered with AdventHealth and city officials to arrange the May 13 event at Amway Center, the team’s home arena. The Moderna vaccine will be available, free of charge, to anyone 18 or older.
Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee said he tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Lee, 28, is considered one of the rare "breakthrough cases" -- one of only 6,000 or so people who have tested positive for the virus after going through the full vaccination process, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I did test positive for COVID about two weeks ago," Lee said prior to Thursday night's 118-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I did get the vaccine the middle, end of March, but essentially this was just a rare breakthrough case. ... Right now, there's no timeline in the immediate future for me coming back and playing."
"I had headache, chills, sneezing, congestion, soreness, body aches," Lee said while reading a list off his phone to keep track of everything he dealt with. "It felt like I was hit by a car. Like hit by two cars at once every step I took. It hurt, it was pain, soreness. It felt like there was a weight on my chest for a couple of days, like it was just hard to breathe."
Danielle Lerner: Stephen Silas could not confirm if Jae'Sean Tate, who is out tonight in health and safety protocols, tested positive for COVID. "He was our No. 1 guy we could plug into all the spots where people are injured or we needed help and not having him tonight is gonna be a big hit."
Shams Charania: Sources: Four new NBA players tested positive for coronavirus out of 492 tested in the last week.
Mike Vorkunov: Madison Square Garden will be able to expand fan attendance to 30% capacity for Knicks and Rangers games on May 19 after a recent decision by NY Gov. Cuomo to ease COVID-19 restrictions. It's been at 10% capacity since Feb. 23, when fans were allowed into the building again.
Damian Lillard: So we gone be the only damn team in the whole league with no fans .
Shams Charania: Hornets forward Miles Bridges is expected to miss 10-to-14 days due to health and safety protocols, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Bridges is having a strong season, averaging 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds.
The Jump: "Teams are gonna recommend players to get the one shot vaccination" —MacMullan #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump
Today the Atlanta Hawks announced plans to increase attendance for postseason play to 7,625 fans, approximately 45 percent of State Farm Arena’s full capacity. The plan received approval by both the NBA and the Georgia Department of Public Health. The Hawks opened the 2020-21 season with no fans in attendance before increasing capacity to 1300 fans on Jan. 26 and later increasing to 3000 fans for the second half of the season on March 13. At 35-30 (.538), the Hawks are currently in 5th place in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining (six at State Farm Arena) in the regular season. Fans can guarantee priority access to the 2021 Playoffs by visiting Hawks.com/membership or texting or calling (866) 715-1500 for more information.
Shams Charania: Lakers guard Dennis Schroder is expected to miss 10-to-14 days due to health and safety protocols, sources tell me and @Bill Oram. Schroder entered protocols on Sunday.
Mark Murphy: Fournier on his bout with COVID: "It’s a golden opportunity for me to finally be with a great team, and the fact I got COVID is heartbreaking, to be honest. That’s the hard part. You guys don’t know me yet, but I’m as mentally tough as it gets. I’ll get through that for sure.”
Jay King: Fournier said he's been feeling "really weird" since returning from COVID-19. Said it feels like he has a concussion. The bright lights were bothering his eyes and his vision was blurry. Everything going too fast for him. A bit better now but in some ways, "it's still the case."
Sixth man Alec Burks, who is out of COVID-19 protocols, was held out of Sunday’s contest but has a chance of suiting up in Memphis. The Knicks have not made Burks available for comment since his return to the team. He has missed eight straight games. “He’s getting a lot closer,’’ Thibodeau said.
KC Johnson: Billy Donovan on Zach LaVine: "I think we're hopeful that this will take another week. It's our best guess. There will be things he'll have to do going into this week that are set by the league in terms of their policies and protocols."
Shams Charania: Sources: Two new NBA players tested positive for coronavirus out of 488 tested since April 21.
Most of the absences have been tied to contact tracing, according to the spokesperson, who added that the league expects all 10 of the referees currently sidelined to be available for the playoffs, which start in less than a month. "We at the NBA have taken a very strong stance, especially with referees traveling commercial, that we want referees and the teams that they are serving to be safe," Monty McCutchen, the NBA's vice president of referee development and training, told ESPN. "And so with an abundance of caution, we pull people out on contact tracing, if there's even the smallest inkling [of an issue]."
March 20, 2023 | 11:58 am EDT Update
Shaquille O'Neal undergoes hip surgery
Shaquille O’Neal sparked concern after sharing a photo of himself in a hospital bed on Sunday … but TMZ Sports has learned the NBA legend simply needed to fix a nagging injury, and he’s now doing OK. Our sources tell us the 51-year-old went under the knife over the weekend to have an issue with his hip corrected — and everything went according to plan. We’re told he’s already on the mend.
March 20, 2023 | 11:35 am EDT Update
Both Lakers and Austin Reaves interested in re-signing
Austin Reaves’ surge is setting him up for a fascinating offseason. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, and will undoubtedly have multiple suitors looking to pry him from the Lakers — especially after stat lines like Sunday’s. Both the Lakers and Reaves’ camp have interest in Reaves re-signing in Los Angeles, according to multiple league sources who were granted anonymity so that they coud speak freely. The max the Lakers can offer Reaves is a four-year, $50.8 million contract if they chose to use his Early Bird Rights, but they also have the power to match any contract he signs with another team.
The coming weeks will ultimately determine how the situation plays out. The Lakers have 10 regular-season games remaining, and possibly some postseason games as well. In the meantime, Reaves is thriving as his role expands and his confidence grows down the stretch of this season. “It’s special,” Reaves said of playing for the Lakers. “I mean, I grew up a Lakers fan. To do it for this organization, especially, is surreal. Sometimes I gotta stop and really think about what I am doing. … All I’m really happy about is the win.”
NBA Communications: Tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers can become the third team from the Eastern Conference to clinch a spot in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The 76ers host the Chicago Bulls at 7 p.m. ET on the NBA App. Clinch scenario ⬇️
Temple University interested in hiring Sam Cassell as head coach
Michael Scotto: 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell has drawn interest from Temple University for its head coaching job, @hoopshype has learned. At this time, however, Cassell is focused on helping the Sixers compete for a championship. Cassell has interviewed for NBA head coaching jobs in the past and is in his 14th season as an assistant coach. He also works closely with Tyrese Maxey in Philadelphia.