EVERY COACH IN the league had to find a way to talk to players about everything they’d be signing up for this season. From daily testing — which was more like three times a day during the height of the surge in January — to the lack of personal freedom on the road to restrictions on how many family members and friends they could see. “We actually talked to the team about [the safety protocols] many times during the season,” Kerr says. “‘Yeah, this sucks, but you really have to put it in perspective and remember how fortunate we are to be working.”
It was just good, Silver said, to be back in the same place together. "There aren't that many places, even pre-pandemic, where people gather in the way they do in arenas, come together for a common purpose ... and literally breathe each other's air," he said. "I think that's part of the human connection. I really do miss that."
FOR SOME, LIKE Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Richardson, the past 16 months are probably best forgotten. "I mean, I got COVID twice," Richardson says. "I'm hoping that this is just a memory that we look back on a few years and like, 'Oh yeah, that was crazy.'" But then he caught himself.
"I think my takeaway is how adaptable we are," he says. "How proud I am that everybody was able to ... the NBA was able to make a semi-safe space for us to be able to compete."
Richardson says he didn't have any symptoms the first time and quarantined at his house -- with his dog, Champ -- for 25 days. "That was before we knew anything about it," he says. "We didn't even test every day, so it could've been a false positive. But I was scared. I didn't want to give it to anyone else." He also didn't want to talk about it publicly. "At the beginning, people would look at you funny," he says. "Like you had the plague."
For the next 11 days, Richardson sat alone in his hotel room in Denver. "The only time I opened the door was to get tested at 7 in the morning and 5 at night," he says. "I could order Uber Eats. But they'd leave it at the front desk, and the people at the hotel would bring it up and knock on the door and sprint away."
One of the days he noticed what looked like a music video being filmed on top of the bus station. "That was entertaining!" he says. "I watched the whole production. They had an orange Mustang and people standing on top of it."
There were no fans in arenas for the first few months. Some teams covered the empty seats; others put up cardboard cutouts. Everyone played music and piped in fake crowd noise to try to distract from the silence. But that was almost worse, Kerr says. "It was almost like laugh tracks in a sitcom," he says. "You could tell it was a little fake, and the timing would be just off. Somebody makes a great play and the reaction is a split-second late."
John Karalis: USA basketball announces Bradley Beal will miss the Olympics due to the health and safety protocols. Jerami Grant is now also in the protocol "out of an abundance of caution"
Shams Charania: Team USA's Jerami Grant has entered health and safety protocols at Team USA camp, sources tell me and @joevardon . Grant has not tested positive for coronavirus. He and Bradley Beal are in protocols in Las Vegas.
A person with knowledge of the situation says U.S. Olympic guard Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards has entered the health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus, which raises the possibility that he might miss the Tokyo Games.
Beal will be tested multiple times in the coming days, according to the person who spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the player involved for USA Basketball was not revealed publicly. The results of those tests will likely determine if he remains on the roster, the person said. USA Basketball could still replace Beal before heading to Tokyo.
Shams Charania: Wizards star Bradley Beal has entered health and safety protocols at Team USA camp, placing his return to play status up in the air, sources tell me and @Joe Vardon.
Tim Reynolds: AP source: USA Basketball guard Bradley Beal has entered the health and safety protocols in Las Vegas, raising the possibility that he may not be able to attend the Tokyo Games. There is nothing definitive about that at this point.
The Milwaukee Health Department will have COVID-19 vaccines available at Fiserv Forum Plaza on Wednesday, July 14 ahead of Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Fans who receive their vaccination will be entered to win two tickets to that night’s game, donated by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Joe Vardon: Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said three players from the US select team (which practices against the Olympic team) are out of training camp due to testing positive to COVID-19. No Olympic player tested positive, he said.
Brian Windhorst: Immanuel Quickley, PJ Washington and Miles Bridges of the USA Select Team are out of training camp in Las Vegas due to COVID protocols, sources said. All members of Team USA were at practice today.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league's ability to get over a million fans back into attendance during the playoffs has helped the league stem its financial losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We did somewhat better than we initially projected," Silver said Tuesday before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. "We don't have the exact numbers yet, but maybe we'll be down roughly a third in revenue, something around there, instead of 40 percent."
The Celtics led the NBA in one category this season: Games lost by players due to to Covid-19 precautions and infections. And teams around the league seemingly noticed. During a recent segment on NBC Sports Boston (captured by OMF), longtime NBA reporter Chris Mannix revealed the Washington Wizards went as far as to complain to the league office about the behavior of some Celtics players. Washington endured one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks all season, with seven players testing positive for the virus over a four-day period in mid-January. The Wizards played the Celtics Jan. 8, and apparently blamed them.
“The Celtics were among the teams that I know of that didn’t take Covid seriously,” Mannix said. “They continued to go out on the road, and would find ways to skirt the rules at times when they were traveling. They didn’t take these protocols seriously — not as seriously as some other teams did. Washington, when they had all of their Covid issues back in January and early February, they blamed Boston. They complained to the league that the Celtics, because of what they had heard about players going out in Florida I believe it was, they believed they contracted their issues through the Celtics.”
Gabriel Deck tested positive for coronavirus, the Argentina Basketball Confederation announced Friday. Deck, 26, has been retested ahead of the planned trip of the senior Argentina national team to Las Vegas. The results of the second test are pending. He will rejoin the national team training camp once he is cleared, assuming the second test confirms he contracted COVID-19. In the meantime, he remains isolated. He is asymptomatic and in very good health, as noted by the CABB.
Kellan Olson: Chris Paul said he messed around a bit on the court at his house but other than that didn't do anything while he was under health and safety protocols. On testing positive for the virus: "Shit happens."
Gina Mizell: Chris Paul said that a few "stars in our league" called to check on him while in protocols and told him "they just love the way our team is" as far as playing together and for each other #Suns
Paul underwent a cardio exam Wednesday morning and passed, which is the final step to clearing the league’s health and safety protocols, sources said. Paul has been in the protocols since June 16. The 36-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 last week despite having been vaccinated, sources said.
He found out the news upon arriving in Los Angeles after sweeping the Denver Nuggets and has been quarantining ever since. The trip to L.A. was to surprise his wife and kids, sources said. Yahoo Sports reported prior that Paul was asymptomatic. How he contracted the virus is still a mystery, sources said.
Duane Rankin: From #NBA and NBPA: "Of the 149 players tested for COVID-19 since June 16, zero new players have returned a confirmed positive test."
John Stockton is trying to assist … the anti-vax community. The NBA Hall of Famer appeared in an anti-vaccine documentary. In the cameo, the former Utah Jazz point guard brags about his alleged knowledge of COVID-19. “This isn’t a virus cheating us of this opportunity,” Stockton said in one clip. “It’s the guys making decisions saying, ‘No, no we’re too scared. We’re going to shut everything down. Sit in your house and be careful.’ My kids and grandkids hearing these things and accepting them as truth when I know by my significant amount of research that it isn’t, it’s very frustrating.”
“One of the things that sticks in my head is losing someone like Steph Curry to basketball would be a crime,” Stockton said. “I just think what a disappointment to this world it would be if that guy didn’t become who he is. So I wonder who we are missing out on right now.”
Marc Stein: The NBA announces that one player, out of a possible 164 tested for COVID-19, has returned a confirmed positive test since June 9 ... after three consecutive weeks with zero positive tests leaguewide.
Tim Reynolds: Suns say they will update Chris Paul's protocols situation on Saturday. Earliest Game 1 of the West finals is Sunday.
Clutch Points App: Jalen Rose says Chris Paul has been vaccinated. Hopefully that means he won't miss too much time after entering the NBA health and safety protocol
NBA Central: Chris Paul tested positive for COVID-19, per @Gambo987 pic.twitter.com/RhJUyFO8jG
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.
July 6, 2022 | 11:21 pm EDT Update
The Phoenix Suns today signed guard Devin Booker to a contract extension. “Devin has had a truly special impact on our organization, our fanbase and the Valley community since he first arrived in Phoenix,” said Managing Partner Robert Sarver. “We are grateful for all his contributions and we are thrilled to ensure that he will remain in a Phoenix Suns uniform into the future.”
“Devin, with his work ethic and commitment to excellence, has established himself as one of the league’s best players, elevating himself and our organization,” said General Manager James Jones. “We are beyond excited to extend the mutual commitment between Book, the Suns and the Phoenix community. He is just getting started.”
Michael Scotto: Sources: Bobby Portis has a 15 percent trade kicker in his four-year, $48.5 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, @hoopshype has learned. The deal also includes a player option on the fourth year of the deal.
Bobby Marks: The Tyus Jones contract in Memphis starts at $15M in the first year and declines to $14M in year 2. $1M in additional team performance bonuses Jones earned $8.4M in 2021-22 and will come close to doubling his salary for the upcoming season.
Tom Orsborn: Spotted Joe Wieskamp wearing a walking boot on his right foot while sitting near courtside at the Aces game. He said it isn’t anything serious. “I’ll be good,” he added. Will try to get a full report on Wieskamp from Mitch Johnson when Spurs practice Thursday.
Nick DePaula. Next month, @Damian_Lillard is launching “Formula Zero” in Portland, an annual invite-only elite skills camp & year-round mentorship for 20 top High School & 20 top College players. The camp will “provide the highest level of development both on & off the court,” says Lillard.