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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“It’s going well. I mean, I think we understand the situation we’re in, and a lot of guys got to step up and play different roles. I mean, we all think, like, he may come back. Who knows? But for now, we’ve got ... We still have to play the games with the guys we have here.” said Durant of the team’s feelings on Irving who the Nets exiled following his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Everybody’s been locked-in on that since Day 1 of the season. Just, like, let’s focus on who’s in the locker room and once that situation figured out, we’ll adjust back to that. But for now, everybody’s just trying to figure out their roles on this team. And at this point, it’s been exciting trying to figure that out.”
Rich Hoffman: The latest injury report lists Matisse Thybulle in health and safety protocols. Obviously, that means he's out for tomorrow's game in Chicago. Danny Green has been upgraded to questionable.
Eric Nehm: Lengthy injury list for the Bucks for tomorrow night in Detroit. The following players are OUT: - Donte DiVincenzo (left ankle injury recovery) - Jrue Holiday (left ankle sprain) - Brook Lopez (back soreness) - Khris Middleton (health and safety protocols)
Shams Charania: Cavaliers’ Kevin Love has entered health and safety protocols and is expected to miss several games, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Love is averaging 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds this season.
The Mavericks have officially announced that COVID-19 protocols at the American Airlines Center will be relaxed starting November 15, when Dallas hosts the Denver Nuggets. The revised health and safety measures are a result of the decline in average coronavirus case numbers and recent actions from local health officials.
Jared Weiss: Tatum told Jaylen his breathing was more the issue in his recoveryr, but Jaylen says the soreness and fatigue recovery has been more the issue for him. "I haven't felt like Jaylen out there every single game...Running up and down the court unimpeded is what I'm focused on."
FedExForum has reversed course and will no longer require fans 12 years old or older to wear masks at Memphis Grizzlies and Tigers men's basketball games. The change was announced Thursday and comes after the Shelby County Health Department's latest directive on Wednesday removing the indoor mask mandate for businesses. The directive remains in effect through Nov. 30.
Tim MacMahon: Mavs G Trey Burke, who is not vaccinated, is out vs. Spurs tonight due to Covid protocols. Kristaps Porzingis will sit at least the first game of the back-to-back due to the lower back tightness that caused him to exit early in Tuesday’s win.
John Karalis: Al Horford is officially questionable to return tomorrow. Josh Richardson is probable with the migraine. Marcus Smart has some fluid in his right knee, he's also probable
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: This tepid kid-glove handling from players who have all gotten the vaccine appears more an attempt to preserve a congenial working relationship than true support for making asinine choices. They’re like the Real Housewives pretending they’ve got Erika Jayne’s back in her legal woes because they still have to go to dinner parties with her. Though they don’t mean to, by not strongly condemning Irving, they are signaling passive support, which is as damaging as joining him on the bench as a vaccine-denier.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Irving has made it clear—in an unclear way—that he is resisting getting vaccinated, not because he’s against the vaccine, but because he’s against mandates: “Just know that I'm rocking with all those that have lost their jobs to this mandate, and I'm rocking with all those that chose to get vaccinated and are choosing to be safe, as well. I'm on both sides of all this. I support and respect everybody's decision.” Respecting everyone’s decision sounds good—sounds so patriotic and All-American. But it’s lame logic. We don’t respect the choice of someone in an apartment building to let mold run rampant because it will make all the tenants sick. We don’t respect the choice of letting your house burn to the ground without fighting the fire because it may burn the neighbors’ houses, too.
Kellan Olson: Asked Monty Williams about the Cardinals' COVID-19 outbreak: "This thing is real. I've had family members affected by it. Early on I lost a niece. I'm on my kids about their masks in school. It's a health issue. It's not politics, it's a health issue. We gotta stay on top of it."
Karl-Anthony Towns on finding out his mom has COVID: “It was difficult because, as her son and someone who loves her so dearly, I just didn’t want to see her in pain. So I was trying to do everything possible to make her comfortable and get her better quicker. So I was doing everything in my power and she was getting worse. COVID causes a lot of swelling. And the swelling is what got my mom. And she got a blood clot on the day she was gonna get taken off the ventilator. She had pre-existing conditions too, but nothing to be worried about. So I flew in, I put the hazmat suit on and everything and I went in there. ’Cause I was like, if anyone’s gonna go see her out, I’ma see her out. I spent some hours with her and I knew it was gonna be the last time., so I was kind of working that out.”
Karl-Anthony Towns on losing 8 family members due to COVID-19 as well as contracting the virus himself: “Eight. I just lost a close one last week to COVID. Another one. I was in the hospital...because I got it during the season. And I got discharged.” - Karl-Anthony Towns
“I just got a lot to deal with, you know. Like I don’t have the time, you know, I think my time is...I look at it as like the most valuable thing I have. I’d rather waste a lot of money than waste my time. And I didn’t want to go to therapy and not be ready to talk. ’Cause then I’m just sitting there. I could bullshit my way through anything. I could give you a sense of feeling, but no feelings. If I go in there, I gotta be ready to talk.” - Karl-Anthony Towns
Yet team management and ownership figures across the league have voiced frustration about double standards for players like Irving, whom the NBA does not require to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, the league does require basketball and business operations staffers to be vaccinated, and they are subject to close contact with unvaccinated players.
When Los Angeles’ new city ordinance requiring proof of vaccination to enter a wide range of indoor venues takes effect in November, those rules won’t apply at Staples Center, city and arena officials said, because a health order previously issued by the county covers the home of the NHL’s Kings and NBA’s Lakers and Clippers.
In Los Angeles, an unvaccinated Laker or Clipper could apparently still take part in home games, provided they provide proof of a negative test to comply with the county health order as it applies to Staples Center. The point could be moot for now, as both the Lakers and Clippers in recent weeks have said that their rosters are fully vaccinated, but teams often add new players throughout a season.
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November 30, 2021 | 12:56 pm EST Update
“Guys believe we can play and beat anybody, and I think we’ve shown that, regardless of what the circumstances are,” said Finch, who politely declined to discuss Carlisle’s apology. “We just have to keep doing that every night. Our problem is as a young team we aren’t always there mentally, and we have to get dialed back in and be a little more business-like in our approach sometimes.” Suddenly, the Wolves are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth in the West, and it is not just the players who are getting noticed. When asked by Wolves play-by-play announcer Dave Benz about Finch before the game, Carlisle said he had great respect for him. “He’s coached all over the world,” Carlisle said. “His resume is a little bit like (Toronto Raptors coach) Nick Nurse. He’s coached all kinds of different places, all kinds of different situations.”
Sarah K. Spencer: Onyeka Okongwu has been doing more live work, per Nate McMillan. In the next couple days, he’ll go to the Skyhawks to play 5-on-5 in practice. “We slowly are trying to build him up.” After a couple practices, they’ll see if Okongwu can play in a G League game, per McMillan.
Storyline: Onyeka Okongwu Injury