Chase Hughes: Wizards announce SIX players are out for Friday’s game vs. Bucks due to Covid protocol, plus two more for injuries: Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, Moe Wagner. Also, Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad).
Ava Wallace: The Wizards are back at practice. First time on court for the group since Jan. 11, and we’ll hear from Scott Brooks and Bradley Beal after.
Jared Weiss: Stevens says Jayson Tatum is out of the COVID protocol now but has to ramp up activity over a few days. Worked out back in Boston today. He may return on Friday, though Stevens isn’t saying anything on that yet.
Shams Charania: 11 new NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus out of 502 tested since Jan. 13, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
On “The Rich Eisen Show,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said he hopes the league doesn’t have to pause the season. “I think we’re at that point right now where there’s concern,” Rivers said, “that we’re gonna have to pause. I don’t want to have a pause. I don’t think a pause would be good for us, if you know what I mean. But, it also is very difficult.”
Devin Booker has Karl-Anthony Towns even nearer and dearer to his heart after learning his close friend has tested positive for COVID-19. "My prayers are with him and his family," Booker said after Tuesday's practice. "Times have been tough for him. Tough for a lot of people. We're taking it seriously."
Booker and Towns were teammates at Kentucky for the 2014-15 season and have remained close. So the Phoenix Suns All-Star guard immediately reached out to Towns about his health and well being. "His health is my priority," Booker said. "The health of his family is my priority."
After witnessing some opposing players disregarding new league rules against unnecessary contact on game nights, the NBA is moving team security into the midcourt area to dissuade violations that include hugging and handshakes, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN on Wednesday.
Despite those changes, there were still instances of traditional players' contact in postgame scenarios, which led the NBA to issue a memo on Wednesday reaffirming the rules that require teams to remain on their half of the court in pregame and halftime warmups, and limits to physical contact that include only elbow or fist bumps. High-fives, hugs and handshakes aren't allowed, nor are extended conversations post-game.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Portland-Memphis is postponed tonight because of contact tracing, sources tell ESPN.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the league has discussed having players receive COVID-19 vaccines to educate and influence the public regarding their safety and effectiveness. "There have been discussions. It's something we're particularly focused on," Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico.
"In the African American community, there's been enormously disparate impact from COVID ... but now, somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] in the African American community for understandable historical reasons. ... If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated."
Andy Larsen: Quin Snyder: "We would encourage everybody to take the vaccine... we haven't had specific conversations [about that], we're just trying to follow the current protocols"
Casey Holdahl: CJ McCollum notes his aunt has COVID-19 during his first press conference since breaking his left foot. And it brings up something I've been struggling with, which is that's it's difficult to talk about sports injuries right now without feeling kind of... foolish I guess?
Paul Rosenberg: Stephen A reveals on First Take that NBA reporter Sekou Smith is suffering from covid & he is hearing that "he's not doing so well". Obviously first I have heard of it. Have had Sekou on a few times to chat NBA on WFAN. Hopefully he has a full recovery.
Ava Wallace: The Wizards have had a seventh player test positive, per sources, and one staff member. No staff had tested positive before now. Wizards brought eligible players in for individual work over the weekend but haven't gathered as a group since last Monday.
Harrison Wind: Michael Porter Jr. won't play tomorrow vs. OKC. The hope is that he's back in the lineup in Phoenix on Friday. "Bottom line is he's our starting small forward that's 6-foot-10, averaging close to 20 pts per game and seven rebounds. Of course we'd love to have that," Malone said.
Shams Charania: The Wizards-Hornets game on Wednesday has been postponed.
Maybe, if everything breaks right, sports leagues somehow muddle through this bleak winter, hanging on tight until players—and the rest of us—are finally all vaccinated. Until we reach the end of that tunnel. “Obviously we want sports, and we want activities that provide leisure and fun,” says Vespignani. “And I understand that for professional players—especially to play in an arena where there is no audience, to stay in a bubble aside from the family—it’s difficult. But these are difficulties we’re all facing in different ways. Children do not go to school. We work from home. So we all need to cope with that for a few more months and be very strict with the rules.
Kellan Olson: Monty Williams said that Robert Sarver has done an "unreal job" in making sure that everyone's families and people in close contact are getting testing. Said that's really helped him feel more safe and at ease.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Memphis C Jonas Valanciunas has entered the league's health and safety protocol, team says.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Sixers postponement is due to contact tracing connected with the game against the Grizzlies on Saturday night, sources tell ESPN.
Keith Pompey: The #Sixers have NO new positive COVID-19 test results to report at this time, according to a team source. However, they’re partaking in ongoing contract tracing due to a covid-related issue involving a recent opponent.
John Karalis: Contact tracing on the Sixers postpones tonight's game with OKC. Philly is Boston's next opponent so let's see how this impacts games later this week
Brad Townsend: Carlisle says he is optimistic that Brunson will be available tomorrow, but adds with agitation in his voice: "The guy basically tested negative for a week and a half and didn't have it. Go figure that one."
Tim Bontemps: Tonight’s Sixers-Thunder game has been postponed, the league announces. Too many Sixers are in contact tracing protocols for the game to be played.
Jon Krawczynski: So far, Wolves seem clear to play. Okogie: Robby Sikka and front office have "done a good job of making testing not only available to us but for our families to make sure that whoever is around us has the same resources we have. So they’ve been great."
Dane Moore: There have been no additional contract tracing or positive tests since Friday for the Timberwolves. “We’re good as now,” said Ryan Saunders.
Fred Katz: I’m told the Wizards were able to start bringing select players into the practice facility for one-on-zero workouts yesterday. Players eligible to work out are, of course, ones are testing negative for COVID and also have been cleared re: contact tracing.
Tim Bontemps: In addition to the Celtics players still in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, two assistant coaches — Jay Larranaga and Jerome Allen — also are in them, according to a source. Neither are on the bench for Boston’s game tonight against Orlando.
Brad Townsend: Van Gundy says he heard NBA is going to go to twice-a-day testing. Had not heard that before.
Mirjam Swanson: Clippers announce the Forum is to become a COVID-19 vaccination site. Also been used as a voting center and COVID test site, recently.
Eric Woodyard: Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas called it “difficult” and “unfortunate” with the game being postponed. He also called it a “reality” with the current state of the world. “We don’t pick those situations, they pick us,” Rosas said.
Christopher Hine: Rosas: "We feel like it's a protected, isolated situation with those exposures ... but this is significant to our family, that positive ... and our organization wasn't prepared to move forward tonight."
Fred Katz: Tommy Sheppard said four of the six Wizards players with COVID are asymptomatic. The other two are feeling symptoms. One was feeling symptoms two days ago and has felt great the last two days, he says.
Tim Reynolds: The updated Games Lost This Week To COVID Mess scoreboard: Wizards 4, Celtics 3, Suns 3, Cavaliers 2, Heat 1, Pelicans 1, Mavericks 1, Bulls 1, Jazz 1, Magic 1, Hawks 1, Warriors 1, Pistons 1, Pacers 1
Years ago, a longtime NBA scout settled into Madison Square Garden for an early-season college game. He found his seat more than two hours before tip-off, eager to watch warmups. He’d heard good things about the prospect he had come to evaluate. The player, a college junior, was excelling for a ranked Big East team. The scout pulled out his notebook and pen.
But the player, whom the scout declined to name, “didn’t possess the demeanor of a pro.” He didn’t hustle. He “goofed off,” failed to run in straight lines during warmup drills and didn’t make much eye contact with teammates. “The overall feel I got left me with a lot of questions,” the scout recalls. “It was a red flag.” He crossed off the prospect’s name, packed his bags and left the arena — before the game had even begun. Sticking around, he reasoned, would have been a waste of time.
But the landscape has shifted this season, with almost every NBA organization opting to conduct all college scouting remotely, according to conversations with nearly a dozen league scouts. The consensus is that with live evaluation on pause because of the pandemic, they must pick up on the little things through TV. There’s an increased importance in making extra calls to a prospect’s past and current acquaintances, down to grassroots coaches and high school guidance counselors.
“When you see a player in person, I can’t tell you the world of difference it makes,” says a Western Conference scout based in the Northeast. “It’s all in the details you pick up: warmups, body language, what do they do when the camera isn’t on them. The stuff you can’t get on TV or on Synergy (an analytics and film platform). The biggest thing is that being at the games and seeing these guys for yourself reduces our organization’s risk as far as making a pick.”
The Washington Wizards are dealing with an outbreak situation, with the franchise now up to five players who have tested positive for COVID-19, sources tell The Athletic's Shams Charania and Fred Katz. The Wizards last played on Monday against the Phoenix Suns. They have already had two games postponed this week — Wednesday against the Jazz and Friday against the Pistons. Washington's next scheduled game is Sunday against the Cavaliers.
Fred Katz, Wizards writer: The Wizards had plenty of close calls with COVID-19 before eventually having to miss games. They played the Celtics last week, the day before Boston flashed a positive test. Before that, they went up against the 76ers the day before they had one. Kevin Durant went into quarantine the day after his Nets played the Wizards. Bulls players tested positive in the middle of a series in Washington. Now, the Wizards are the ones dealing with the real-life issues that come with playing this season in the middle of a pandemic.
Katz: Most importantly, the Wizards have to get healthy. Players who test positive for coronavirus must quarantine for a minimum of 10-to-14 days, per league rules. If they have symptoms, quarantines can be longer than that. They then have a two-day ramp-up period and have to pass a cardio test before returning for good. It could be a while before some of these guys return. The status of the upcoming series against Cleveland, scheduled for Sunday/Monday, is up in the air, given today's news. Either way, it will be a minute before we see the Wizards in their full form.
Jon Krawczynski: Juancho Hernangomez has entered isolation and will be out at least 10 days, sources told @TheAthleticMIN
Cody Taylor: The Timberwolves announced Juancho Hernangómez and Ricky Rubio are in the health & safety protocols and will not play tomorrow night vs. the Grizzlies.
Jonathan Feigen: Calvin Murphy opens tonight's broadcast by saying he was out while in isolation after coming in contact with someone with COVID-19 but that he is back, healthy and good looking.
Roy Parry: Magic center Mo Bamba did not travel with the team to Boston because of non-team contact tracing, according to league sources. Bamba does not have COVID-19. His availability beyond Friday's game will be determined by the NBA.
March 3, 2021 | 9:47 am EST Update
Several sources within the Houston organization firmly believe Morey made a preemptive decision, departing in large part because he anticipated Harden would want out, beginning a rebuilding period for the Rockets. According to sources, Morey had expressed concern inside the bubble about not being able to “keep James happy,” due to a lack of picks to use as trade fodder to make offseason roster upgrades.
Harden’s happiness, or lack thereof, was Stone’s problem after the longtime Rockets front office executive was promoted to replace Morey. But just getting Harden to communicate with him was difficult for Stone and the Houston front office, a factor that delayed the coaching search that ultimately ended with the hiring of Silas, a longtime NBA assistant who was a finalist when Houston hired D’Antoni four years earlier. By early November, the Rockets had privately come to terms with the fact that the Harden-Westbrook pairing fizzled, as the friends no longer wanted to play together. That was problematic, given the steep price the Rockets paid in the Westbrook trade the previous summer, but Houston could stomach searching for a Westbrook trade.
Weeks before camp opened, a high-ranking Rockets source told ESPN that the team was “willing to get uncomfortable,” stressing that the front office felt no urgency to trade Harden and Westbrook before the start of the season despite the stars’ unhappiness, vowing not to be pressured into dealing them for pennies on the dollar.
After the game, crew chief Marc Davis told a pool reporter that Booker’s first technical was for “continuous complaining” and the second was for “directing profane language at a game official.” Suns forward Jae Crowder said he tried to get between Booker and the referees to deescalate the tense situation but was too late. “Devin was disputing his first technical,” Crowder said. “He didn’t like the first technical that was given to him and he voiced his opinion about it. The second ref heard him voice his opinion and decided to give him another one.”
“I think Jae Crowder said it best: We got better tonight,” said Suns coach Monty Williams after the game. “You gain confidence when a guy like Book doesn’t play or gets tossed and you’re able to pull a game out on the road at the end of a trip. That’s a recipe for mailing it in, and this group has shown a lot of resiliency. But that was a big-time character win, and we got better. “I think we played good tonight, but we probably got more confidence that we can pull a game out without Devin or Chris [Paul] saving the day.”
LeBron James was asked about dealing with the stretch of recent games. “Just trying to stay in the moment. For me just standing in the moment, keeping my guys motivated, keeping them upbeat,” the four-time NBA champion said. “You could definitely tell that some of our guys are just feeling the midst of the long season that we had last year with the bubble and coming right back on to the season this year. A lot of guys looking forward to the break so it’ll be beneficial to our guys.”
But don’t diminish Turner based on one historically challenging matchup. He should still be a frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, if not the favorite to win the award over the likes of Embiid, Rudy Gobert and others, at least based on his body of work so far this season. Here’s why: For one, Turner leads the league in blocks at 3.4 per game, and it isn’t particularly close. Gobert came into the Philly game second in that category, 11 blocks behind. Of course, leading the league in blocks isn’t necessarily the litmus test; in 2018-19, Turner led the league in blocks and didn’t get a sniff of the award. It’s why he knew that if he wanted to bolster his candidacy, he needed to add some subtle elements to his defensive game.
No player contests more shots per game within six feet of the basket than Turner (10.5) and he allows a minus-16.2 percent difference in field goal percentage on these attempts. He’s not just blocking shots; he’s altering shots, making plays with his quick feet and hands and giving the Pacers one of the top — if not the top — rim protectors in the game. “It’s funny, his rookie year, he was amazing; I got to see him on the USA Select Team and thought he was the best player on the whole team. He was unbelievable,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s turned out to be a different kind of player than I thought he would be.