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.
Tim Reynolds: The Magic have left the gate. Game on in Boston tomorrow.
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."
Tom Orsborn: Rudy Gay on tighter COVID protocols: "I guess you can complain about it, but, at the end of the day, it’s about safety. That’s the most important part, not just for us, but for our families, staff, everybody."
How do you reflect on your time in the NBA bubble last season, and should the league go back? Damian Lillard: I enjoyed the bubble for what it was. The NBA put us in a safe environment that allowed us to compete for a championship, and do what we love to do. That came at the expense of our family and being away from home. Right now, I think I would say no to going back to the bubble. What we need to do is challenge each team and each organization to be more disciplined, and the players to be more disciplined, and understand that if one person decides to step outside the protocol and what they’re asking, how it can impact and affect other players, and not just those players, but their families and whoever they take it home to.
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.
Matthew Tynan: So, the Spurs have teamed up with Xenex Germ-Zapping Solutions in an effort to fight COVID-19. They’re the first NBA team to deploy robots (yes, robots) to disinfect their arena. The future is here, folks. The rise of the machine is upon us. pic.twitter.com/nt4KiIA1Vi
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.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Stan Van Gundy repeated that 4,400 people died in the US of coronavirus yesterday and that is what matters the most, more than a basketball game. “This is serious stuff and we need to prevent the spread.”
Eric Woodyard: As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer says he trusts in the league to keep them safe but also acknowledges that “it certainly feels like we’re being pushed to that limit.” He respects the NBA and will continue to follow leadership.
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."
Sarah K. Spencer: Kevin Huerter: "As far as I know, someone in our organization at some point was exposed. We don't know whether it was tracing or whether they had it. All we know is there were people who weren't involved in practice today that usually are."
Shams Charania: 16 new NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus out of 497 tested since Jan. 6, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
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.
Connor Letourneau: Damion Lee on Eric Paschall's false-positive coronavirus test: "This virus is nothing to play with, whether it's a false-positive or an actual positive. ... It'll be great having EP back out there tomorrow."
Aaron Gordon: It’s starting to get janky... I’d be cool with a bubble if it was in the Bahamas or Hawaii and we got to bring our family/wife or girlfriend
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.
“Do I think it’s worthwhile?” Donovan said. “I think it’s worthwhile as long as the people still making those decisions feel very comfortable about the safety measures and protocols being in place to try to protect everybody as best as possible. And I think everybody is kind of putting their trust in the doctors, in the medical experts.”
“What we’re missing in this is COVID created this, but the concern is not COVID now,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “The concern is injuries, because guys are playing so many minutes because we don’t have enough guys. If I was deciding games in that way, I would be very careful if I’m the league, because you don’t want that to happen either.”
Thunder guard George Hill pushed back against the stricter COVID-19 safety protocols the NBA announced Tuesday, wondering why the season would continue if such measures were necessary. “I’m a grown man, so I’m gonna do what I wanna do,” Hill said after the Thunder’s 112-102 loss to the Spurs. “If I wanna go see my family, I’m gonna go see my family. They can’t tell me I have to stay in the room 24/7. If it’s that serious then maybe we shouldn’t be playing. It’s life. No one’s gonna be able to just cancel their whole life for this game.”
Farbod Esnaashari: Everyone is paying attention to George Hill's quote, but should pay attention to Shai: "If it means I have to wear a mask on the bench the whole time, it is what it is and I'm gonna do it. I want to get back to normal living, and whatever it takes to get back, I'm going to do it
Harrison Faigen: Kyle Kuzma isn't overly enthused by the idea of going back to the bubble, but made it seem like he'd be willing if necessary. "Obviously that would be a last resort type of deal... But this team, this organization, if a championship is on the line, that's what we're going to do"
May 20, 2022 | 8:25 pm EDT Update
Shams Charania: 2021-22 NBA All-Defensive teams: First team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mikal Bridges, Rudy Gobert, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marcus Smart Second team: Bam Adebayo, Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday, Matisse Thybulle, Robert Williams III
Bobby Marks: Robert Williams has a $223,215 bonus as part of his rookie extension. However, because Williams is still in the fourth year of his rookie scale contract, the bonus is not earned. The bonus is now deemed likely and his cap hit for 2022-23 is adjusted to $10,937,502.
Melissa Rohlin: Gary Payton II (fractured left elbow) has started to do various light individual on-court activities and will be re-evaluated in one week. Andre Iguodala (disc injury in his neck) continues to show progress and an update will come when he’s cleared to practice.
May 20, 2022 | 7:27 pm EDT Update
The Lakers appear poised to make a decision on their coaching position soon, with Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts the finalists for the job that became vacant when Frank Vogel was fired at season’s end. But as the final round of interviews is set, sources tell The Athletic that Ham appears to have made the strongest impression yet.
In terms of the Lakers’ preferences, sources say team officials have prioritized a coach who can command respect and authority from the locker room and who has a strong enough presence and voice to manage the varying roles and relationships across the roster. Those characteristics bode well for Ham’s candidacy. Throughout assistant coaching stops with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, Ham has been known for his no-nonsense style and ability to resonate with his players — attributes that have stood out in his communication with the Lakers thus far as well, sources said.