The year couldn’t have gone worse for Ziaire Williams during his time at Stanford. He lost several family members to COVID-19. His team was not able to practice or play at their home facility to pandemic-related restrictions. He was essentially living fully in hotels for the first few months of the season and there was no sense of normalcy.
According to one prospect who recently spoke to For The Win, due to COVID-19 restrictions, those not invited to the green room are not allowed to come to the stage and shake the hand of the commissioner as they have been in years past. Regardless of who is actually in the building, however, it is certain to be an exciting and life-changing night for the next generation of NBA talent. Based on conversations I’ve had with scouts around the league, and from reports and tea leaves left in other mock drafts from trusted draftniks, below is how I project the events will unfold at Barclays Center and on ESPN and ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET on July 29.
Shams Charania: Sources: NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety player protocols for 2021 Summer League in Las Vegas:
Gerald Bourguet: Thanasis Antetokounmpo remains out for Game 6 due to health and safety protocols. No one new on the Suns' or Bucks' injury reports otherwise
Adrian Wojnarowski: Bucks assistant Josh Oppenheimer won’t be on bench for Game 5, sources tell @malika_andrews and me.
Adrian Wojnarowski: This will be the third consecutive game that Oppenheimer has been away from Milwaukee’s bench, sources tell @malika_andrews and me.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Oppenheimer has been in contact tracing and there’s hope he could be back on bench for Game 6 on Tuesday, sources said.
Tim Bontemps: Mike Budenholzer says the Bucks will not have a full staff available for tonight’s game in the wake of Thanasis Antetokounmpo entering the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols this afternoon ahead of tonight’s Game 5.
Malika Andrews: Thanasis Antetokounmpo has entered the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and is out for Game 5, according to the Bucks’ injury report.
Chase Hughes: Bam Adebayo, who has had Covid before, on Bradley Beal: "This is one of those things I wouldn't wish on anybody. It does give you PTSD. But I did check with Brad, he said he has no symptoms. So, I think this will pass through and it will be okay."
Neil Dalal: Draymond Green says that if Team USA wins gold in Tokyo he hopes Bradley Beal receives one too because he made the commitment to represent his country.
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."
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."
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.
July 3, 2022 | 11:21 am EDT Update
ClutchPoints: “They have shut down any team who’s called about trying to trade for Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz are committed to moving forward with him as their cornerstone player.” @wojespn on the Utah Jazz’s plans with Donovan Mitchell
Marla Ridenour: #Cavs announce signing of guard R.J. Nembhard to a two-way contract. Joins forward Isaiah Mobley, who signed a two-way contract Saturday
Blake Wesley: I model my game after Jordan Poole and Caris LeVert. I like the way Jordan Poole plays so I try to model my game after him. And then Caris LeVert has the boogie to him, so I try to get boogie like him, so I like both of them.
Blake Wesley: For sure, I always have a chip on my shoulder regardless of Top 16 or not. I’m not satisfied with myself right now. Getting 1 percent better every day, and just competing. I do, I just don’t say anything to the public. I just show my stuff on the court, whether it be Top 16, Top 10 pick. But at the end of the day, I was picked No. 25, which I like, my family likes, so we’re blessed to be in that position, and I’m happy for all the guys that got drafted before me. I’m not that kind of guy that likes to talk all the time. I just like to show my game on the court.
How do you think you have what it takes to make guys in the NBA respect your shot? Blake Wesley: Getting to the rim and shooting. I don’t think some people think I can shoot. I gotta show that at Summer League, and hopefully get that respect going into the season. I feel like defense comes first. If you can impact the game on both ends. I love to defend and impact the game. That can change the game a lot.
July 3, 2022 | 9:45 am EDT Update
Anthony Slater: The Warriors took Gui Santos 55th overall this past draft. Initial plan has been to stash him next season, maybe in Santa Cruz or elsewhere. Looked fluid and skilled offensively in his summer league debut. Here are some of his 20 points in first three quarters. pic.twitter.com/DucZ5K7o3v