NBA rumors: Celtics do not expect Al Horford back for Game 2, Marcus Smart aiming for Game 2 return

The Boston Celtics do not anticipate Al Horford being cleared from health and safety protocols prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Smart is aiming for a return in Game 2, sources said, but it is dependent on how his foot responds to treatment over the next 36 hours.

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Mark Murphy: Ime Udoka would not rule out Horford for Game 2 - said everything depends on testing protocols. Horford has now gone into protocol for the third time, also including preseason and a five-game absence in December.
Anthony Slater: Steve Kerr did not travel with the Warriors to Memphis today. That lines up Mike Brown to be the head coach again for Game 5.
Michael Scotto: Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine has entered health and safety protocols, team says. Chicago faces elimination tomorrow night against the Milwaukee Bucks down 3-1 in the series.
Ira Winderman: Bam Adebayo has entered health-and-safety protocols for the Heat. That could mean five days away from team through Friday, but still time to return for playoffs. No Tyler Herro tonight (knee).
Kristian Winfield: Goran Dragic is in the health and safety protocols and Bruce Brown has a non Covid related illness. Both will miss tonight’s game against the Hawks. #NetsWorld
ESPN reported that more than a third of the league’s referees were in COVID protocols at the end of December. But, as with players and coaches, the regular referees are, slowly, coming back. “We’re coming out of the worst of it,” NBA Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training Monty McCutchen said Tuesday, noting the combination of vaccines and boosters — all required by the league for officials to work NBA games this season — along with the antibodies produced in healthy people who have gotten the vaccines and boosters but nonetheless test positive. “That being said, we’ve had to lean on other people,” he said. “And we’ve been proud of their work. … We’ve lost, it seems to me, this ability to allow people a proper apprenticeship. We tend to want our first-year players to be immediate successes. We want our first-year coaches to be immediate successes. And, of course, refereeing is always judged up against this unreasonable standard of perfection, instead of where are they on their arc, and are they doing excellent for that arc of growth?”
Having streamlined its teaching points for officials working across all of its leagues — NBA, WNBA, G League and the new Basketball Africa League — the league expects similarity in its referee mechanics. McCutchen acknowledged that a G League official obviously won’t be as experienced or ready to jump into an NBA game as the NBA’s veteran officials, but the league does expect the G League and other referee call-ups to handle “their third” — the area of the floor where, depending on each of the ref’s assignments in a given game, to which they’re supposed to pay attention — at a high level. “I need you to be asserted and disciplined,” McCutchen said. “If I’m assertive within my disciplined area of responsibility, the NBA goes off really well. And because we’ve trained, I hate to be overly flippant about it, but ‘wax on, wax off’ works in life. When you really get in there, when we see somebody go out of (their) primary, and for us, that means they’re stretching too far, we’re holding people accountable to that. We’re saying ‘no, that’s not your responsibility.'”
He cites as an example a referee who responds to constant chirping from players that they’re being pushed around in the paint by calling a “weak” pushing foul. “You can see a direct relationship to that,” he said. “We’re holding people accountable to that. We’re saying, ‘Wait a minute; we have a standard at the NBA of what a push is.’ But there’s also the desire to make sure that people’s strength isn’t demeaning, or lessening, to other people. In the spirit of competition, those lines get blurred — amongst player to player, amongst player to coach. You hear when players get passionate with one another, ‘Oh, that’s just part of it.’ I don’t want to make excuses for officials, because we expect good communication. We expect professional communication.”
Marc Stein: It is expected that Mavericks coach Jason Kidd will also remain in the league's health and safety protocols until Saturday's home game against Orlando, league sources say. Memphis will be Porzingis' seventh game missed while in protocols and Kidd's fourth.
Noah Levick: Sixers say Doc Rivers has cleared COVID-19 protocols and will coach tonight against the Magic. The team went 2-0 with Dan Burke as acting head coach.
“They waited for me,” Payton said. “They waited for me on the plane.” That concluded a wacky week for Payton, 27, as he was in and out of the league’s protocols where more than 100 players landed last month alone during this worldwide surge of COVID-19 cases. “It’s just out of control to be honest,” Payton said. “It’s crazy. It’s nothing I don’t think we can really do to be honest. You see people with the booster still getting it. You see people who got the regular vaccine get it. It’s almost inevitable. You’ve just got to deal with it.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: After missing four games in the league’s Covid protocols, Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams has cleared and will join the team vs. New Orleans tonight, sources tell ESPN. Suns are 28-8, the second-best record in the NBA.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups has cleared Covid protocols and will coach vs. the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, sources tell ESPN. Billups has missed three games in protocols.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Atlanta Hawks guard Malcolm Hill -- who had 13 points and 3 steals vs. Chicago on Wednesday -- has entered Covid protocols, sources tell ESPN. He recently signed a 10-day hardship deal.
Connor Letourneau: League sources are still optimistic that tonight's Warriors-Nuggets game will go on as planned, but it'll come down to whether a few players currently listed as questionable for Denver are cleared to play.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Denver's Jeff Green, Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji have entered Covid protocols, sources tell ESPN. More Nuggets to be tested today. Denver may have trouble reaching the required eight active players to meet Golden State tonight, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sixers’ Myles Powell and Tyler Johnson have entered Covid protocols and will be out vs. Brooklyn tonight, source tells ESPN.
Duane Rankin: "No film on. We'll watch film before the game and it'll be one play. We think he can shoot. We don't have any scout on these guys. We got to just really play the game. It's really 5-on-5 out there." JaVale McGee on teams adding new players amid COVID rise as #Suns beat Thunder.
Michael Singer: #Nuggets coach Michael Malone has tested positive for COVID and is now in the protocols, a league source tells @denverpost. David Adelman will serve as acting head coach.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers has entered the league’s Covid protocols, team source tells ESPN. Assistant Dan Burke will take over as acting coach.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has taken to wearing a mask on the sidelines the past two games in Minnesota and Detroit. Maybe all his assistants should follow suit after the Knicks have lost another key piece to COVID-19. The Post has learned top assistant Johnnie Bryant has been placed in COVID protocols and will be lost for the rest of the road trip.
“I came to shootaround (Wednesday) not knowing most of my teammates,” Young said. “Nate never wants to make excuses. I’m not the type to make excuses, but it’s frustrating when you look around the league and other teams have gotten games postponed. It’s not even canceling them but it’s moving them because of what’s going on with the COVID outbreaks. We got hit hard by COVID. It’s frustrating not getting games postponed.”
Tim Reynolds: There is a chance - repeat, a chance - that Heat-Spurs won't be played tonight, source tells AP. Still very fluid based on whether Heat can fill roster or has more depletion. If it is called off, it would be postponement No. 10 in the NBA this season.
Although vaccinated and boosted, being three years shy of 70 made him understandably more nervous. “I took a PCR test and our trainer called me about 6 in the morning and said, ‘Hey, you’re positive,’ ” Gentry told The Undefeated. “Obviously, that’s a word you don’t want to hear when you’re talking about COVID … it’s positive? I was very nervous about it because of my age. Hey, other than Pop [Gregg Popovich, who is 72], I’m the oldest coach in the league. So you think, ‘Wow, I’m 67. I just tested positive. What is this going to do?’ “I was nervous as heck because everything about this when you’re my age puts you in a scary situation. ‘How am I going to react? What’s going to be the symptoms? How intense are the symptoms going to be?’ So all of those things right there get you into a situation where you go, ‘Wow.’ “
Anthony Chiang: Alonzo Mourning says on Instagram that he also recently tested positive for COVID-19. "I have been following the CDC guidelines and have quarantined," Mourning wrote.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Minnesota Timberwolves F Taurean Prince has cleared Covid protocols and will rejoin the team, sources tell ESPN. Prince won't play vs. Knicks tonight, but will get back into the gym today.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Minnesota's Anthony Edwards and Naz Reid have cleared Covid protocols too, sources tell ESPN.
Anthony Chiang: Heat forward Udonis Haslem has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols. Kyle Lowry and Haslem both in protocols, along with assistant coach Caron Butler and trainer Jay Sabol.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Josh Giddey has entered Covid protocols, according to the league portal.
Adrian Wojnarowski: On the cusp of his season debut, Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has entered into Covid protocols, sources tell ESPN. He had been ramping up after missing early season for personal reasons.
Michael Scotto: Thunder coach Mark Daigneault has entered health and safety protocols. Assistant coach Mike Wilks will serve as acting head coach tonight in against the Kings, Thunder say.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Washington Wizards center Montrezl Harrell has entered the league's Covid protocols, sources tell ESPN. He's the seventh player on roster to do so. Wizards play the Heat tonight.
Tim Reynolds: This number will rise tonight, but we've already seen 546 players appear in at least one NBA game this season. That's already the most of any season in NBA history.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA and NBPA agreement comes at a time when players are testing positive and heading into quarantine at an unprecedented rate -- 172 have entered Covid protocols in past two weeks, including a single-day high of 27 on Sunday.
Zach LaVine rejoined the lineup after a 15-day hiatus. He landed in the COVID-19 protocols on Dec. 12 but missed only two games due to the team’s recent postponements. “I’m tired of getting COVID,” he said with a laugh. “I can’t stand it. I feel like I just had it.”
LaVine went through a similar ordeal toward the end of last season, missing 11 consecutive games after contracting COVID-19. The Bulls went 4-7 in those contests. This go-round wasn’t as costly. The Bulls went 2-0 without LaVine, but the layoff was a chore. “I was in a hotel. Bored,” he said. “Doing push-ups and running in place. Playing video games. Watched every movie on Netflix. Stuff like that.”
Fortunately, all the Raptors players that have tested positive this month are either asymptomatic or experiencing only minor symptoms, according to team sources. Consider that a victory for the vaccines – each player has at least two doses, and some have received their boosters.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Atlanta Hawks F John Collins has entered the league’s Covid protocols, sources tell ESPN. He’s the ninth Hawks player to do so.
Chris Kirschner: Jalen Johnson has also entered health and safety protocols. Hawks are down to zero power forwards on their regular roster with Gallinari and Collins in protocols.
James Edwards III: Pistons guards Cory Joseph and Josh Jackson have entered health and safety protocols, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA. Pistons play the Spurs tonight and are also without Cunningham, Hayes, Stewart, Lee, Lyles, Grant (surgery) and Olynyk (injury).
Toronto Raptors rookie Dalano Banton has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will be available to play on Sunday versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Banton was one of several Raptors players to enter the health and safety protocols recently as the team experienced a coronavirus outbreak. Toronto still has 10 players out because of the health and safety protocols and has just seven available to play on Sunday.
Ramona Shelburne: The Warriors will be without three of their top four coaches for today’s game in Phoenix, sources tell @Adrian Wojnarowski and I. Mike Brown and Chris DeMarco are in health and safety protocols. Kenny Atkinson (leg injury) isn’t traveling yet.
Jorge Sierra: ?? We've reached three digits ??
LeBron was asked about the Lakers’ defensive struggles vs. San Antonio — who scored the most points vs. Los Angeles in a regulation game since January of 2020. He credited Spurs’ execution then noted the fact that the Lakers’ best defensive players are in health and safety protocols. “All of our defensive guys are in protocols,” he said, naming Kent Bazemore, Austin Reaves, Trevor Ariza, and Avery Bradley (he unintentionally omitted Anthony Davis, who is sidelined with an MCL sprain). “We don’t need a full roster. We just need some of our guys back.”
Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic had barely finished reading his email on Nov. 11 — the word positive was enough — before he started kicking several members of his very large – and very large – Montenegrin family out of his house. He would be forced to miss a big West Coast road trip for the Bulls, but a Thanksgiving surge of Covid cases was expected to arrive, the team doctors had told him, so he got the Vucevic clan packed up for a vacation to Florida without him. And he was just about to get his booster shot.
Chris Fedor on Cavaliers in health and safety protocols: I’ve talked to a couple of the players that have entered the protocols. Not all of them have gotten back to me, but a couple of them. From what I can gather, the majority of the guys in the protocol that I’ve talked to either have no symptoms, or their symptoms are very mild.
Chris Kirschner: Trae Young is still in health and safety protocols. He’s also the only Hawks player in health and safety protocols.
Chris Grenham: The Celtics will almost certainly have to go get more replacement players as both of their two-way players are currently in the protocols. Luke Kornet and Theo Pinson have already signed elsewhere off of Maine’s roster. There will be plenty of movement throughout the day today.
“I’ve been getting calls from our players all day – ‘Michele, are they going to cancel Christmas (games)?,'” National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts said Sunday. “People are concerned about who would ultimately be available to play. And the answer is, I don’t know. .. it is, obviously, concerning. There are some questions right now about some of our so-called marquee players’ availability to be able to play on Christmas. That’s our day, and we’d hate to not be able to continue to own that day, But one might ask the question – if your marquee guys are all in quarantine, is it worth playing those games, or should those games be, if they can be, postponed? No one’s asked me. But at this point, I think it’s still coming down to prayer.”
It’s the renewed anxiety about having to go through this again, just as crowds had returned to the league after a year-plus of playing in empty buildings. “We thought we’d gone through the worst, and the notion it might not be the worst is pretty spooky,” Roberts said. “We had, what, 97, 98 percent vax rate. … We thought we’ve done all that’s humanly possible, and we’ll be able to plow through the season. And all of a sudden, it’s worse than it was before. There’s a certain amount of, I guess, depression – now, what else?”
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