NBA rumors: Seventh Wizard player tests positive for COVID-19

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.

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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.
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

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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.
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.
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."

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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.
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.
“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.”

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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.
Cody Taylor: Steve Clifford said the Magic are very confident the game tomorrow night vs. the Celtics will be played: "Our plan is that we'll be playing."
Damian Lillard: So, that’s what the challenge is, and just let them know, we need to create a bubble within our team, within our organization. The people in our facility and a bubble in our household, that way we’re protecting each other to the best of our abilities. But I wouldn’t say go back to a bubble because there’s so much more season to be played, people have families, and at least we’re forming a bubble in our homes, in our own beds and get to do it that way.
Chris Mannix: I've been hearing from people within the league office that you're not gonna see anything radical happen when it comes to how they're going to deal with this growing number of infections and people being exposed to infections, but they will nibble around the fringes a little bit and adding bodies might be one way to do it.
Sarah K. Spencer: Kevin Huerter says the Hawks have a few people who are self-isolating. "Hopefully we can nip it real quick... We had no contact with Phoenix. But with our team situation, obviously we think we have the right people in isolation and hopefully it doesn't spread too far from that."

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Sarah K. Spencer: Lloyd Pierce says he is self-isolating in a hotel room right now, due to contact-tracing. He didn't give a time period of how long he has to isolate, just says it's until the league tells him. Says he has tested negative.
What if players volunteered at the many public distributions centers that are being arranged throughout the country and received the vaccine in that setting while encouraging the masses to do the same along the way? A source with knowledge of the call with team presidents said UCLA was the possible site mentioned, but that sort of approach could gain traction. According to a Pew poll of 12,648 people conducted from Nov. 18-29, just 42 percent of Black people intended to get the vaccine when it became available. It has been chronicled and analyzed that many in the Black community are known to be distrustful of vaccines, in large part because of the shameful history of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
The potential thinking here isn’t hard to understand: The sight of the world’s most famous basketball players — the large majority of whom are Black — getting the vaccine while sharing productive vaccine messaging could go a long way toward aiding that cause. With President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, a source said league officials have been in touch with the incoming administration’s transition team about how the NBA might be able to help.
Malone’s Nuggets were inside the bubble until the Western Conference finals were over. He argued publicly for coaches to be able to welcome families — a luxury the players enjoyed far, far earlier than coaches. There is no bubble now because the isolation was too much for everybody involved. League officials resist even the idea of a shutdown or pause right now. They want to plow ahead and get this season over, so the next one (with fans allowed in) can start on time. But to hear Malone warm to the idea of a bubble is an indicator of just how difficult it is navigating a season outside of one in this pandemic.
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July 28, 2021 | 7:51 am EDT Update

Devin Booker: 'There's no hate towards Jrue Holiday or Khris Middleton'

And two players from the Bucks are not only also on the American team, but circumstances were such that the three had to share a private plane ride across the Pacific last weekend — a day after the Bucks’ championship parade. “The memories are there, but it’s nothing personal between us,” Booker said. “We lost and that’s it, and I’m man enough to accept that and move on. There’s no hate towards Jrue or K Mid.”
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Months after LeBron James lost a Finals, he’d always say it was something he’d never get over. Good thing he never had to be Devin Booker, who barely had 10 minutes to try and put it behind him. “I’m a forward thinker and able to move onto the next thing, and be able to take my ‘L’ and move on,” Booker said Wednesday, in his first comments since the night his Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, eight days ago.
Booker’s coach on Team USA, Gregg Popovich, and teammate Draymond Green (not to mention assistant coach Steve Kerr, but we digress) have been in Booker’s shoes, having lost a Finals. He said Popovich and Green discussed it with him “in short conversation.” “Talkin’ about it with Draymond, and him stressing the fact that it’s not gonna be that easy to get back to the Finals,” Booker said. “I remember us as a team saying that in the locker room after we lost — you know we’ve got to understand, it’s going to be even harder to make it to the point we were at. … But I’m excited for the experience. It was great. I am glad I got to do it, obviously ended up on the wrong side of the stick, but that’s life.”
“It’s a HUGE deal,” former NBA player Raja Bell said of the international ball in a text with CBS Sports on Tuesday. “I’ve always said that FIBA balls affected my shot and other NBA players’ shots tremendously. I HATE that ball! “It’s lighter, feels smaller, different texture,” Bell continued. “I mean, when the art of shooting is based on muscle memory, and you change all the factors except the rim size and height, it’s going to be difficult.”
Storyline: Olympic Games
In another exchange with a Western Conference scout, the conclusion was similar. “[The ball is] definitely a factor,” the scout said. “How big a factor I guess depends on the particular player. But it’s an adjustment for everyone. Some guys are going to make [the adjustment] easier than others.” And another text from an Eastern Conference scout with international playing experience: “It’s pretty different, and it takes some getting used to. It’s much softer than NBA or college basketballs.”
It should be comforting for Jalen Johnson to know he’ll be a first-round selection in Thursday night’s NBA draft. What should be more stressful for the former Nicolet High School standout is where he’ll actually be chosen. Johnson, a talented 6-foot-9 forward, has elicited a wide-range of opinions from NBA draft personnel. Said one longtime NBA personnel director of Johnson: “He is, to me, the biggest wild-card in the draft. I wouldn’t be shocked if he went in the lottery, like around 12 or so, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he fell into the 20s.’’
“Part of the evolution of African interest and passion for the game goes back to Hakeem’s entry into the game,” said Victor Williams, chief executive of NBA Africa. “Giannis is doing the same thing for today’s generation of African kids — and they do recognize him as African.” Antetokounmpo is known as “The Greek Freak” because he was born in Athens, but he grew up in a Nigerian home. His mother, Veronica, is Igbo. His late father, Charles, is from the same Yoruba tribe as Olajuwon. His last name — Adetokunbo — was Hellenized when he finally became a citizen of Greece and received his passport, one month before the Bucks drafted him 15th in 2013.
In the 2020 draft, nine players from or with at least one parent from Nigeria were selected. Seven players in the Finals had ties to Africa: Mamadi Diakite (Guinea); Abdel Nader (Egypt); Axel Toupane (Senegal); and Deandre Ayton, Jordan Nwora and Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Nigeria). “In a continent that is vastly made up of a young, vibrant, dynamic population, that’s the future,” Fall said. “So to see these young people on the global stage doing big things, I think across borders, whether he’s from Nigeria or Congo or Côte d’Ivoire, everybody is watching the NBA. What they are doing continues to build and add to the narrative and the momentum that’s been shaping up, in terms of basketball development on the continent.”