The NBA called off two more games because of COVID-related and contact tracing issues on Monday, and a person with knowledge of the situation said the Miami Heat were preparing to be without “at least five" players for the next several days because of possible exposure to the coronavirus.
Miami scheduled a flight from Boston to Philadelphia on Monday night in advance of a game there Tuesday, but was preparing to leave some players behind because of the tracing results, said a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those details were not publicly released. The identities of those players was not revealed, and it is unclear if other members of the Heat travel party were affected. “Definitely been a unique start to the year,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said Monday in an appearance on Reddit. “Been different challenges with all the protocols and new norms. I think the general sentiment is that everyone wants to play but also everyone wants to be safe first.”
Marc Stein: Benches, locker rooms and planes -- those are among the areas of prime concern for the NBA, sources say, in combatting COVID-19 More stringent rules and enforcement on masking, limiting in-person meetings and curbing pre- and post-game socializing are all potential measures
Kelly Iko: “We haven’t spoken about it as an organization yet.”— Rockets head coach Stephen Silas on the possibility of a league pause with rising COVID cases.
Marc J. Spears: Hawks:”Out of an abundance of caution & in consultation with state and local health officials, including infectious disease doctors from Emory, that the team will continue to play games at State Farm Arena with limited guests & now target Jan. 26 for the return of ticketed fans.”
Anthony Chiang: Can confirm that the Heat is arranging for players out because of contact tracing to be flown back to Miami on a private plane. Others who are cleared will travel to Philadelphia if enough are eligible to play tomorrow's game.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Among topics for GM call today centered on tightening protocols, sources tell ESPN: Re-examining shootarounds and practice lengths, pre-and-post game socializing on court (for example, hugs), further restrictions on restaurant dining and tighter rules on mask-wearing.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA has set a special Board of Governors meeting for Tuesday, sources tell ESPN.
The Athletic has acquired a copy of the league’s health and safety protocols. The document begins its section on contract tracing by defining “close contact,” which is what contact tracing is generally looking for. Consistent with current CDC guidance, close contacts are defined as any individual who (a) has been within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (i.e., consecutively all at once or in multiple separate time blocks), starting from two days before illness onset for symptomatic individuals, and two days before specimen collection for asymptomatic individuals or (b) had direct contact with infectious secretions or excretions of the infected individual (e.g., being coughed on or bare-handed palm- to-palm handshakes or hugs).
It will likely be months until league-wide vaccinations are possible. Until then, playing- and non-playing personnel alike must navigate an imperfect set of protocols — one Adalja is skeptical could be reformed in a way that fully guarantees safety. “I don’t think you can come up with a one-size-fits-all (answer),” he says. “It’s really gonna depend upon each individual’s circumstances and what their risk tolerance will be, because no activity is going to have zero risk, unless you do it the way they did it before with the bubble.”
Alex Schiffer: Nash said he believes Kyrie Irving was tested for COVID on Sunday. Wasn't sure about today.
Barry Jackson: New Orleans-Mavs,Boston-Chicago postponed. Discussions ongoing with league&union about how to deal with growing problem, per a team source. NBA had opted not to go to 19 player roster instead of 17 (economics in play). Not sure why when MLB smartly agreed to 60 player pool in '20
Kyle Neubeck: The NBA is meeting with the NBAPA today to discuss modifying the league’s health and safety protocols, league says in a press release on postponed games
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA's general managers have a conference call set today to discuss these issues with league today too, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: As one GM tells ESPN in story: "They tell us it'll be better later in the season, but I just hope this doesn't break the league in the next few weeks."
Brian Robb: Safe to assume Celtics do not have the league minimum eight players available to play on Tuesday night due to NBA Health and Safety protocols, which led to this postponement.
Tim Bontemps: With the Celtics already having their game postponed tomorrow, their next scheduled game is at home Wednesday vs Orlando. With @Adrian Wojnarowski reporting Boston doesn't have enough players, that means additional players beyond the seven in the Health & Safety Protocols yesterday are now.
Tim MacMahon: Source confirms that Pelicans-Mavericks game tonight is postponed due to COVID-19 issues, as first reported by @CallieCaplan
Adrian Wojnarowski: Ongoing contact tracing left the Mavericks without the necessary eight available players to play the Pelicans tonight, source tells ESPN.
Shams Charania: The Dallas Mavericks-New Orleans Pelicans game tonight has been postponed, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Silver on Dec. 30 addressed a group of team governors; general managers and presidents; coaches; and NBPA leadership such as Michele Roberts, Kyle Lowry and Dwight Powell. The league office provided additional guidance to these constituents stemming from the advice and notice it received from the top health and medical experts. “January is going to be the worst month,” Silver told the group, according to sources. “We are optimistic about improvements in February … after we get through the darkest days.”
The NBA and its players union have previously-set dates in the near future to discuss updating league protocols, multiple sources said. In the meantime, the games will push on.
Ira Winderman: Heat's Duncan Robinson, on his ongoing Reddit AMA, "I think the general sentiment is that everyone wants to play but also everyone wants to be safe first. The league is obviously doing everything they can to ensure both."
Getting owners on board with another bubble could be challenging. “They don’t want to pay for it,” a high-ranking team executive told SI. Indeed, the cost of the Orlando bubble was in the neighborhood of $180 million. While the majority of teams are not bringing in gate revenue, the appetite for forking over millions to rebuild a secure environment is expected to be minimal.
But these are all unknowns. It’s worth noting that the NBA will have the infrastructure in place for a bubble The league announced this week that the G-League will play its season in a Disney bubble. In February, 18 teams will call Lake Buena Vista, Fla. home for a season that is expected to last around a month. There is also a growing number of team officials who believe, regardless of a bubble, that the NBA should consider a weeklong pause of the season. “It’s f------ crazy right now,” an NBA coach told SI. “Honestly, we go to work every day wondering who is going to be available.”
But the league sees evidence of an even greater risk of infection when the league's shuttered, which is another reason health and medical experts advising the NBA aren't pushing for a stoppage now, sources told ESPN. When players were tested upon returning to team training camps, the NBA saw spikes in positive tests -- including 48 cases on December 2.
Executives and coaches are frustrated that quality of play and preparations have suffered, and competitive balance is being compromised. Teams are struggling for ways to build camaraderie and chemistry when staffs and players are constantly being separated, and rituals once as simple as shoot-arounds became pointless when players sometimes have to wait an hour-to-90 minutes for the return of test results before they are allowed inside the facility.
Nurse’s view was more clear cut: "But I still say this, that until somebody [from the league] is going to the hospital getting really, really sick — I think we're still so unclear about what having the virus even means other than you don't wanna spread it … Even college football or baseball or NFL, I don't recall hearing anyone being taken to the hospital being gravely ill. So, I'm okay playing, we've gotta try the best we can to stay safe, we've gotta try to continue getting through life a little bit and just be as safe as we possibly can.”
Brad Townsend: Poor Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson remain in Denver, I'm told. No indication of when/how they will be able to return to Dallas.
Malika Andrews: Kevin Durant, speaking to reporters for the first time since his health and safety protocols absence, says he was confident he wasn't going to be infected with COVID again (he had it in May) and was able to do cardio and weight training at his home.
Some team executives have privately raised concerns in the turbulent past several days, but commissioner Adam Silver has remained committed to pushing through games with a minimum of eight available players per team and trying to complete as much of the schedule as possible prior to widescale access to vaccinations that could start to bring normalcy back to the league and country.
Tom Orsborn: Asked if Spurs are taking extra precautions with Becky Hammon, Drew Eubanks and a staffer in COVID-19 protocols, Pop replied, "We are doing everything possible. There's not much more we can do." He also said he has not been vaccinated.
Sopan Deb: NEW from NBA spokesman Mike Bass: “We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned this season accordingly. There are no plans to pause the season. We will continue to be guided by our medical experts and our health and safety protocols.”
Brian Mahoney: Michael Malone learned of the Heat-Celtics postponement on his way to game at MSG, where his Nuggets are without Michael Porter Jr. "You are starting to see what is going on in our country directly affect the NBA because we are no longer in that safety net of a bubble," he said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: While the Celtics-Heat game has been postponed tonight, the NBA has no plans to pause the season despite thinning rosters because of COVID-19 protocols in several places.
Chris Mannix: Right now the NBA's plan is to ride this recent rough patch out. The expectation was January could be a tough month, and it has been. Still -- there are a growing number of team officials that are hoping the league pauses the season, even for a week.
Brad Townsend: I'm told that, while the NBA has no plans to pause the season despite today's Boston-Miami game and rising player absences across the league, there most likely will be additional protocols put into place in the coming days -- with the impetus coming from the players association.
Shams Charania: The Boston Celtics-Miami Heat game tonight has been postponed, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. A Heat player has returned an inconclusive test, and team does not have required eight players to proceed with game tonight due to contact tracing.
Alex Schiffer: Nash said he thinks Tyler Johnson is on the same week-long protocol as Durant was in terms of contact tracing. He'll be out the next few games. Said he wants to ramp Durant back up after a week away from the team but still wants to treat things carefully in terms of restrictions.
Shams Charania: Nets’ Kevin Durant is listed available to play today vs. OKC. Kyrie Irving is listed out due to personal reasons.
Mark Murphy: Source confirmed that Tatum's second COVID test came back positive as well, sending Brown, Ojeleye and Green into quarantine.
Fred Katz: Bradley Beal is available to play tomorrow against the Suns, the Wizards say.
TJ McBride: Source: all Nuggets players and staff members with the team returned negative COVID tests — both rapid and regular — this morning. So despite playing Dallas three days ago and Philadelphia last night, Denver’s roster is ready to go.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Bradley is expected to miss more time with team than just tonight's game, sources tell ESPN.
Shams Charania: Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber is entering isolation and will miss 10-to-14 days due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
In these first three weeks of the season, the league is learning that the hard way. One team official asked before the season, half-jokingly, if it would wind up going on a road trip and leave players in one city after another as it went. So far, two teams -- the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks -- have had to leave players behind; and in another instance, staff from the LA Clippers had to drive back home from Salt Lake City. The Toronto Raptors, who are playing in Tampa, Florida, this season, reversed course on having fans in attendance at games this week due to spikes in the virus.
"I do think the reality is that we know this is rampant right now," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "And we're doing everything we can, as I've said before, to prevent it, and it's still going to find its way into the league, through travel parties; so we're all assuming some level of risk. "And I think we accept that and, at the same time, we trust that the people in charge have health and safety as the No. 1 priority; and if it becomes too much, that'll be somebody else's decision who's an expert at it."
The Nuggets will arrive at the Garden on Sunday having played their last two games against the 76ers — who played with eight active players Saturday because of health and safety protocols stemming from Seth Curry’s positive test — and the Mavericks, who have quarantined three players after one tested positive following Thursday’s game in Denver. “We just gotta do our part individually,” Knicks guard Austin Rivers said Saturday. “It’s tough, though. It is everywhere. Unfortunately in our country, people don’t wear masks all the time. You have ignorance displayed every day, which is causing this to be more delayed and more serious. … It’s frustrating to see people mess around with that stuff. We just control what we control and do our part. The Knicks have done a great job of keeping us in line with that stuff.”
Brad Townsend: Rick Carlisle says Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson and Jalen Brunson are still in Denver. Burke is available tonight.
Brad Townsend: Rick Carlisle: "We’re all dealing with a vast set of circumstances, so we’ve got to remain calm and we’ve always got to have a plan for adversity. We’ve been expecting that this kind of thing was certainly a realistic possibility and now we’re dealing with it.”
Brad Townsend: Carlisle: "We've got to remain calm. We've been expecting this sort of thing." It is what it is, what the NBA is going through right now.
Shams Charania: Wizards star Bradley Beal is out for tonight vs. Miami due to health and safety protocols and contact tracing exposure to Jayson Tatum, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Ava Wallace: Bradley Beal is OUT tonight vs. Miami due to the league's Health and Safety protocols, per source. Beal has not tested positive, he's wrapped up in contact tracing.
Tim Bontemps: Celtics say: Kemba Walker (knee), Grant Williams (health & safety), Robert Williams (H&S), Romeo Langford (wrist), Tristan Thompson (H&S) are out tomorrow vs Miami. Jayson Tatum (H&S) is doubtful. Semi Ojeleye (H&S), Jaylen Brown (H&S), Javonte Green (H&S) are questionable.
Duane Rankin: "I think it's something we're going to see throughout the year. I'm sure the league is prepared for what could be a stoppage at some point if it gets too bad." #Suns coach Monty Williams when asked about Philadelphia having #NBA minimum 8 players today. Was an assistant there.
Malika Andrews: Kevin Durant (health and safety protocols) is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the Thunder, according to the latest injury report. Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) is listed as questionable.
Anthony Chiang: Erik Spoelstra on COVID-19 issues that Celtics and 76ers are currently dealing with: "There is an element of unknown and uncertainty. It's just a reality. It makes everybody feel a little bit uncomfortable." Calls it "sobering news."
Tim Reynolds: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, on Philly playing with 7 guys, etc.: "The numbers are spiking. That is the reality. We are committed to proceeding with our industry and we're doing it with all the best science and adherence to the protocols, but ultimately we're not in control.."
Mark Murphy: Per source: Jayson Tatum tested positive for Covid today, and is now awaiting the results of a confirmation test. He is asymptomatic.
Shams Charania: Boston Celtics All-NBA star Jayson Tatum is expected to enter quarantine and miss 10-to-14 days due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
December 3, 2021 | 8:18 am EST Update
And Wall’s remaining money is significantly more than Walker’s was. For a Wall buyout to make any sense for the Rockets, Wall would likely have to give up even more than Walker did to the Thunder — and there’s next to no chance Wall could make that up in his next deal. At any rate, that hasn’t been seriously discussed by either side as a possibility. “It’s hard for him at this point in time, when your salary doesn’t equal what your production is,” a sympathetic front office person from another team said Wednesday. “That’s hard for him. It’s hard for a lot of guys.”
But executives around the league believe Wall as an unrestricted free agent would have suitors he’d never see if his current deal remains in place. One general manager volunteered the Kyrie Irving-less Nets, in a reserve role behind James Harden, or the Bucks as viable destinations. That is, if Wall were playing for the minimum. “He’s still really good,” another GM with no current need at point guard texted. “Just not at the number he currently makes.”
Execs don’t think Wall would make much sense on young squads. That obviously includes Houston, whose future is tied up in Green, the second pick in this year’s draft, and Porter Jr. But how many teams with guard needs are actually contenders? The number is less than 10, maybe less than five. But it’s not zero.
New Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups questioned his team’s effort after a 114-83 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. The Blazers were without All-Star guard Damian Lillard but still put up little fight against a Spurs team which came into the contest six games below .500. “My biggest concern, I think, at the moment, is I want us to compete harder, man. I want us to compete harder,” Billups said. “I want us to be competitive in every game. And I don’t feel like every night we do that. We don’t. And it concerns me. And I’ve felt that way in a lot of our wins. This is not just after a loss, me saying this.”
“I’m still puzzled,” Wilkins said of his snub. “I remember Shaq telling me, ‘I didn’t deserve to be on this team before you. I was only in the league for a few years. I shouldn’t have been on it.’ I thought that was big of him to say that. I look at guys I competed with, and they know what I brought to the game. The biggest thing was guys like Shaq, Dr. J (Julius Erving), Jordan, Magic (Johnson) all said that it couldn’t be a 50 greatest list without me on it. That meant more to me than someone even selecting me because my peers knew what I brought. “I talked with Clyde Drexler recently, and he said, ‘Nique, you know how pissed we were when you weren’t on there? We knew what you did. You were a one-man wrecking crew and never had a great player to play with. All of us had other players.’ To hear stuff like that from great players, what more can I ask for?”
What gets lost in that story is despite Jordan going off for 61 points, the Hawks won. In the final seconds, Wilkins drained a jumper over Jordan to give the Hawks a lead. The Bulls had a chance to tie or go ahead on the final possession, but Wilkins stopped Jordan on the other end. “Last time I saw Mike I said, ‘Do you remember that happening?’ He goes, ‘I don’t recall it happening.’ I said, ‘Bullshit. Bullshit,’” Wilkins laughed. “Mike and I are good friends. We always respected each other. We lived to compete against each other. I played against a lot of great players, but one guy bought the most out of me, and that was playing against Michael. He’s going to bring it to you, and if you’re not ready to give it back, you already lost. “It was entertainment at the highest level. You’re playing against a killer who wants to win at any cost. Mike was a killer. He wanted to take your heart, but I had the same mentality. I wanted to take the heart of whoever was guarding me.”
Kemba Walker getting benched isn’t his problem, it’s his coach’s … so says Kenny “The Jet” Smith, who tells TMZ Sports the guard is a Ferrari and Tom Thibodeau doesn’t know how to drive it. The 31-year-old hooper was removed from the Knicks rotation earlier this week … as he’s been averaging career lows in almost every major category this season. Once backup Alec Burks came in and balled out with 23 points against the Hawks on Saturday, Thibs decided to pull Walker out of the starting lineup AND the rotation altogether.