The Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors separately announced Thursday morning that they had canceled practice out of “an abundance of caution” due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Both teams played home games Wednesday night, with the Pacers defeating the New York Knicks and the Raptors losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both are scheduled to host games Friday, with the Pacers getting a visit from the Mavericks in the first meeting between Dallas and its former coach, Rick Carlisle, now coaching Indiana, while the Raptors host the Knicks.
Mark Medina: Clippers list Nicolas Batum as questionable for tomorrow’s game vs Celtics. He’s cleared NBA health and safety protocols, but status uncertain amid conditioning concerns
Katy Winge: Bones Hyland has been upgraded to doubtful for tomorrow’s game vs the Pelicans. He’s getting closer to being cleared. Nikola Jokić has been added to the Nuggets injury report with a right forearm contusion. He is probable.
Rod Boone: No change in the #Hornets injury report for tomorrow. LaMelo, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, Jalen McDaniels and Ish Smith all remain in health and safety protocols and are out against the Sixers.
Darnell Mayberry: DeMar DeRozan will not travel with the Bulls to Cleveland for Wednesday’s game against the Cavs, according to Bulls PR.
Shams Charania: Sources: Beginning Jan. 15, any NBA player who is not fully vaccinated will be unable to enter Canada to play games in Toronto. Canadian government will require all individuals entering Canada to be fully vaccinated.
Michael Singer: Billy Donovan said he hasn’t heard any talk about a league suspension/pause given the surging COVID cases. Said the question is always if or what the number would need to be for a team to have too few players to compete. Reiterated he hasn’t heard that talk.
Shams Charania: Bulls star DeMar DeRozan has entered COVID-19 health and safety protocols and is listed out vs. Denver. DeRozan could miss several games in protocols.
Rod Boone: More rough news for the #Hornets: Ish Smith has been added to the health and safety protocols list and is now out for tonight’s game against Philadelphia.
Rod Boone: James Borrego also suggested #Hornets aren't getting LaMelo, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee or Jalen McDaniels back until after the conclusion of the 3-game homestand that begins tomorrow against Philadelphia. Sounds like they won't be available until potentially Dec. 13 in Dallas.
Ira Winderman: Erik Spoelstra, on Hornets losing four players to protocols today, "We talked about it today in the walkthrough. And you just want to be vigilant, but you also don't want to live in fear. This is our profession. It's what we're doing. We want to keep it going."
NBA players who have not received the COVID-19 booster dose will be subject to game-day testing starting Dec. 17, sources tell The Athletic. Also on Dec. 17, team personnel who have yet to receive the booster shot are no longer permitted to interact with players, travel with their team or continue with Tier 1 status.
Phoenix Suns lead assistant Kevin Young didn't make trip for Suns rematch against Golden State as he's under NBA's health and safety protocols, league sources inform The Republic. Young is the only one out under health and safety protocols as this will be third game straight game he's missed after testing positive for COVID-19, league sources say.
Duane Rankin: Being told #Suns lead assistant Kevin Young isn't on road trip as he's out under #NBA health and safety protocols.
Mike McGraw: According to injury report, Javonte Green is in health and safety protocols. He played vs Knicks last night. Also, Alex Caruso is questionable for BKN on Sat with hamstring. #Bulls
Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson might have put his playoff status in jeopardy by attending a Toronto Raptors game at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday. Bethel-Thompson is being held out of practice Friday for attending the game, a violation of the CFL’s COVID protocol which states he must now quarantine for four days, according to TSN’s Dave Naylor.
A four-day quarantine would rule out Bethel-Thompson for the Argonauts’ East Division Final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BMO Field on Sunday. The Argonauts are owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Partnership, the same group that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto Marlies and Toronto FC, among other entities.
Shams Charania: Just in: Lakers star LeBron James has been cleared from health and safety protocols to return on Friday vs. Clippers, after testing positive but since registering multiple negative COVID-19 tests, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium .
Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid said "it's going to take awhile" for him to fully round back into form after an extended bout with COVID-19. Embiid had his second straight rough shooting performance in Wednesday's 88-87 loss to the Boston Celtics. "I would never use it as an excuse but obviously I think it's going to take me awhile to get back, especially legs and cardio and all that stuff," Embiid said after going 3-for-17 against Boston, making him a combined 7-for-33 across Philadelphia's past two games. "But every single day I got to keep working hard, and keep getting better."
Embiid, however, shouldered the blame for the loss. "I can't be playing the way I've played these last two games, especially when it comes to shotmaking," Embiid said after finishing with 13 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, two steals and three blocks in 33 minutes. "If teams are going to double me and I'm not going to get easy baskets, I have to create for myself and my teammates, and I've got to make those shots."
Jason Anderson: Kings coach Alvin Gentry on LeBron James entering health and safety protocols: "He’s been such an ambassador for the game, arguably the second-best player that's ever played the game. Everybody wants to see him play, so it’s unfortunate that he won’t be able to play tonight."
Marc Stein: The Lakers' LeBron James has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols after increased testing was instituted leaguewide post-Thanksgiving. Teams were notified Nov. 19 that all players would have to test daily for COVID-19 from Nov. 28-Dec. 1 unless the team had an off day.
Scott Agness: Justin Holiday, now in the NBA health & safety protocols, is expected to be out for at least 10 days and miss the next four games, league sources told @FieldhouseFiles.
Bill Oram: The Lakers say LeBron James will be out tonight in Sacramento due to health and safety protocols.
Adrian Wojnarowski: LeBron James -- who the Lakers are listing in health and safety protocols -- is expected to miss several games, source tells ESPN. Players with positive Covid cases must be out a minimum of 10 days.
Tony East: The NBA’s most recent injury report says that Pacers forward Justin Holiday has entered health and safety protocols. He’s listed as out for Pacers-Hawks tomorrow.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: The NBA’s completed study with infectious disease specialists and testing manufacturers on preseason antibody test results of 2,300 players and staff, finding further evidence of need for the NBA-NBPA recommendation of booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Among study’s findings: Antibody levels vary via vaccine type and among people vaccinated in same period; antibodies decline over time; Moderna and Pfizer vaccines created higher levels of antibodies compared to J&J. After reviewing results, NBA’s infectious disease experts believe some individuals who received J&J vaccine at least two months ago – or a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago – have increased risk of breakthrough infections.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA has a 97 percent rate of vaccination among its players now. Study's results will be used to continue to make case for those eligible for booster shots to get them -- and for those remaining unvaccinated to become vaccinated.
Adrian Wojnaroski: Per study, NBA's aware of 34 cases of vaccinated player or staff diagnosed with breakthrough case of Covid. 3 of 34 infections with individuals with "not detected" antibody levels; 31 of 34 had detectable antibody levels much lower than average of remaining testing population.
Embiid then went into what was so tough about having COVID. “Everything,” he started. “I couldn’t breathe. Headaches was worse than a migraine. The whole body was just done, I guess. It was not a good time.”
Noah Levick: Joel Embiid on having COVID-19: “I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad.” Embiid said his first workout was a couple days ago and it’s a “miracle” he played 45 minutes tonight.
Dane Moore: Karl-Anthony Towns acknowledging postgame that he and Joel Embiid have their history, but he wanted to make it a point to say he is very happy to see Embiid back and healthy from COVID. "That's bigger than basketball... I've seen people die from that."
Ohm Youngmisuk: Nic Batum remains in health and safety protocols and will be out tomorrow against Golden State.
Everyone has their reasons to stay home, and those decisions add up. NBA and NHL attendance are way down from 2018-19, the last season in either league that COVID-19 didn't shorten. Through Thursday, 23 NBA and 23 NHL franchises were experiencing spectatorship decreases. Of those 46 teams, 27 have seen attendance dip by more than 10%. Eight clubs are down more than 20%. These teams are spread across the United States and Canada, but all are playing indoors during a pandemic that won't relent.
The proportion of U.S. sports fans who said they'd be comfortable going to games indoors doubled between March and July to peak at 53%, according to survey data from intelligence company Morning Consult. But the trend cooled and that figure has stalled below 50% throughout the fall.
Tom Orsborn: Jock Landale has entered the reconditioning phase of COVID protocols. He’s here at shootaround this morning.
Shams Charania: Sources: Clippers‘ Nicolas Batum is expected to miss at least 10 days due to health and safety protocols. Batum entered protocols and missed a win over Dallas today, which moved the Clippers to 10-7 on the season.
Ky Carlin: Also, Matisse Thybulle has been upgraded to questionable for tomorrow’s matchup with the Trail Blazers. Joel Embiid and Danny Green remain out #Sixers
It was July 4, 2021, and a franchise secret at the time, according to multiple officials familiar with the inner-workings of the Bucks, was that nobody outside of a small braintrust knew whether or not Giannis Antetokounmpo was vaccinated against Covid-19. The Delta variant was beginning to raise fresh hell. And the superstar’s vaccine secret — combined with what a high-ranking official who was just outside the braintrust called “hiccups” from Bucks management — stoked fear among employees across the franchise: That the highly contagious strain might come for them all… but especially for the most dominant athlete in the world.
The official recalls Milwaukee’s Delta blues: “We were very concerned that Giannis wasn’t vaccinated and that, with all of this exposure from all these different people,” the franchise cornerstone — a one-man band and the new face of the NBA — might get infected, or at least contact-traced by the NBA and forced to quarantine, potentially altering the course of sports history. “It hit everybody pretty quickly, but the biggest thing was: Just make sure Giannis tests negative.”
All season long, the Bucks had been almost fanatical in adhering to the league’s draconian virus protocols. The franchise had not permitted such passengers to join players on the road during the first three rounds of the playoffs, as they hunkered down with a long-standing mantra: Stay locked in. The temptation of Milwaukee’s first NBA title in 50 years, however, opened the Delta floodgates. “Of course we’re bringing our families,” three people remember head coach Mike Budenholzer telling the team. “It’s the Finals!”
When presented with the findings of a Rolling Stone investigation, the NBA’s Covid czar David Weiss and Alex Lasry, who was the Bucks’ senior vice president until he announced a U.S. Senate campaign earlier this year, acknowledged the previously unreported scale of a championship cluster. “This is the NBA Finals,” Lasry told Rolling Stone in an interview last week, on his way back from Joe Biden’s White House celebration of the Bucks’ eventual championship. “The last thing we need is for any of our guys — from the coach to the trainers to any of the players — is to be out. And even when you’re trying to be as responsible as possible, this virus is still going to make its way through.”
Upwards of a dozen people associated with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns tested positive for Covid-19 during the Finals, according to league sources and four team officials with knowledge of the situation: six vaccinated staffers, including coaching and medical staffers from the Bucks; family members and people in both franchise entourages; and one player, Giannis’ brother and teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks refused to confirm a possibly frightening irony: Two officials say that a Milwaukee official responsible for keeping the team Covid-free tested positive during the Finals himself. “Hearing that the Suns also had issues, too, was a little bit scary,” says a second NBA official who was traveling with the Bucks. “It felt like Covid just dropped back out of the sky, came out of nowhere and just tried its best to ruin the Finals.”
Head coach Mike Budenholzer, recalls a source in attendance, encouraged his team to spend time with their guests: “Bud was super-imperative that everybody goes and sits with their family members, so everybody actually went out for the most part and spent time with their friends and family who came on the trip on the charter. So we were fully interactive with those people.” (Budenholzer’s agent referred a request for comment to the Bucks, who declined to comment.)
Eric Nehm: Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he expects Middleton to play tomorrow night vs. the Lakers and confirmed there will be a ramp-up period for Middleton as they get him back in the fold. That would suggest minutes limits on how first few games, but Bud did not provide details.
Eric Nehm: Asked Khris Middleton whether or not he had any symptoms of COVID-19. Middleton: “Yeah. I had a couple symptoms. The night I went home, I felt sick. Maybe two days afterward, I felt sick. After that then, I started to get back to my normal self.”
Samantha Pell: New: Effective Nov. 22, fans will no longer be required to wear masks while at Capital One Arena, per @MSE. NBA-specific: “Pursuant to NBA mandates, fans will still be required to wear masks in player-proximate seating areas for Wizards games.”
As announced two weeks ago, less-stringent COVID-19 protocols will go into effect starting Monday night for fans at Mavericks games in American Airlines Center. On Monday morning, the franchise issued a news release updating the details of the protocols. The franchise also announced that pediatric vaccine doses will be available for children 5-to-11 years old starting at Monday night’s game against Denver, which tips off at 7 p.m.
Tom Orsborn: Regarding whether Poeltl will return for for one of the final two games of this three-game trip, Pop says: "I think he might be available for the Clipper game (on Tuesday). We'll see. It's close." Spurs end the trip in Minneapolis on Thursday night.
Keith Pompey: #GoodNewsForTheSixerFlow: Isaiah Joe has cleared #NBA protocols and will join the team in Indianapolis today, according to a source. He is expected to go through a workout pregame and will be questionable for tonight.
Chris Fedor: #Cavs Kevin Love has been cleared to return to the team environment and can sit on the bench tonight. His return to play has not yet been determined tho.
Jeff McDonald: Pop says it's "50-50" whether Jakob Poeltl will accompany the team on the three-game road trip that begins Sunday in LA. Poeltl must pass additional tests in order to clear health and safety protocols.
Jim Owczarski: On a positive level, #Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said there’s a chance Khris Middleton joins the team in Atlanta.
Chris Fedor: So there’s never been a question about this given the window that we are still in but #Cavs Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen are still out because of the health and safety protocols.
Ky Carlin: Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle remain out for tomorrow’s matchup with the Pacers due to the health and safety protocols Ben Simmons remains out due to personal reasons #Sixers
Tom Orsborn: Pop on Jock Landale suffering another setback, this time an entry into health & safety protocols after enduring a preseason concussion: "It’s really tough for him. He was just starting to play in three-on-three and get his legs back and all that and then this happens.”
Tom Orsborn: Regarding a timeline for Landale's return, Pop said: “(Landale) is just like Jakob (also in health & safety protocols) - when they are done, they are done. I don’t know when that is.”
September 25, 2022 | 7:41 pm EDT Update
Russell Westbrook was wearing a bucket hat, flip-flops and a smile inside the conference room in his Avenue of the Stars offices. Trade talks stalled, training camp on the cusp and Westbrook hardly had to consider the question: Do you feel wanted by the Los Angeles Lakers? “I don’t need to,” Westbrook told ESPN recently. “I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete.”
Westbrook spoke of getting back to work in the gym sooner in the past offseason than he has ever done in his career, about a summer full of conversations with Lakers coach Darvin Ham, about a “connection” and “trust” with Ham’s vision to utilize him in a way that impacts winning on these Lakers. Maybe that’s as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”
He sure isn’t here to tell you that his and the Lakers’ debacle of a season caused him to have to fight to keep his confidence. “No, I didn’t have to fight that,” Westbrook said. “I had to fight my response on how it affects the people close to me. To me, that was the important part. Confidence is not something I lack. Yes, there were times last season that I wanted to play better — that I should’ve played better — but my confidence never wavers. Having bad games is part of the NBA, and I understand that. The only thing it affected for me was the impact that it had on the people closest to me — my mom, dad, wife, brother, close friends. We’ve never had to deal with that as a family. That was the most difficult thing — being booed in the arena and having my kids there.”
Shams Charania: Sources: The Lakers plan to sign G/F Matt Ryan on a non-guaranteed deal. Four-year NBA veteran Dwayne Bacon is also working toward training camp deal with the Lakers. Ryan was with the Celtics on a two-way last season.