NBA Rumor: Coronavirus Infections

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NBA adjusts handling of COVID-19 scenarios

The NBA’s postponement of three consecutive Memphis Grizzlies games marks an evolution in the league’s handling of COVID-19 scenarios within teams, essentially parking a team and taking it out of circulation once a roster has been exposed to the virus, sources told ESPN on Thursday. In previous instances, the league has allowed teams to isolate positive players and sideline others in contact tracing believed to have been in close proximity to infected individuals — yet still allowed teams to proceed with games if they had eight eligible players.

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Again, it’s an exponential function. If teams exchange opponents every two days, one player can spread the disease to 16 teams within a week. Extend that period to four days, and it’s only four teams, which gives the league a far greater chance of putting out the fire. This takes us to our next point: The league can still fix this. Not immediately, but it can. With the situation likely to get worse before it gets better, and the schedule locked in through March 4, the league faces no choice but to limp through the next six weeks, much as baseball did, and try to avert worst-case scenarios.

After that, however, the ball is in the league’s court. The schedule is not sacrosanct, people, and the league can get to 72(ish) games by mid-May any way it damn well pleases. Given the situation and the stakes, the league should look really hard at a second-half schedule that puts teams in small groups of six to 10 teams, which would prevent team-to-team spread and contact-tracing situations. Save your whining about strength of schedule considerations for another day; the primary consideration here is completing the season in any way possible.

Adding to anxiety currently affecting the NBA amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, multiple players who previously tested positive for the coronavirus have recently tested positive a second time, sources told ESPN. The CDC defines “reinfection” as a person getting infection, recovering and then later becoming infected again. There are ongoing studies about how long immunity might last, but the CDC says it expects some coronavirus reinfections.

The NBA has announced more than 100 positive tests since last summer, but the actual number since March is believed to be significantly higher. Several teams have more than 10 players who have tested positive at some point over the past nine months, sources told ESPN. Because testing was less available and there were higher rates of false positives early in the pandemic, there is some level of uncertainty as to how many players had true positive cases early in 2020, especially during the league’s three-month shutdown.

Not only did James Harden test positive in the summer, sources say, but Rockets staffers were alarmed to see social media chatter and photos of Harden at a pool party and other crowded events around that time. It had the makings of an explosive story. But Harden’s positive test only became public months later, which some players felt was evidence the front office’s favorite player had the team’s protection. Unlike Harden, Russell Westbrook disclosed his status when both he and Harden were late reporting to the bubble in Orlando.

Florida forward Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed on the court during a game Dec. 12 at Florida State University, has been diagnosed with a heart inflammation that may be related to an earlier infection for COVID-19. Following the collapse that left Johnson unresponsive, he was transferred last Monday from Tallahassee Memorial to UF Health in Gainesville, where an MRI on his heart led to a diagnosis of acute myocarditis, according to a person with first-hand knowledge. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensibility of the situation.

Bamba wants you to know he feels completely healthy following his June bout with COVID-19 and has made significant progress with his conditioning even though he will be held out from contact drills when the Orlando Magic begin full-team training camp practices on Friday. “I guess the one thing that I will clear up is that I’m seeing in a lot of places that I’m a COVID long-hauler,” Bamba said in an exclusive interview with The Athletic. “I just want to clarify that I’m not. I haven’t felt any symptoms since the summer — in fact, June. But we all know that it takes a toll on conditioning, and I just want everybody to know that I’m working my ass off to get back in peak shape. I think I’m getting pretty close. Literally every day is valuable towards this. But definitely, I’ve been working.”

The Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA Finals coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, and it’s “highly likely” watch parties held by Lakers fans and the victory celebration outside of Staples Center contributed to the spike, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said. That has fueled concerns of another potential spike in COVID-19 transmission rates because the Los Angeles Dodgers are one victory away from winning their first World Series title in 32 years.

Mo Bamba had coronavirus in June

In the last several months, Mo Bamba has employed his platform as a professional athlete to encourage children to stay in school, urge adults to vote in the upcoming election and ask people to donate money to provide food for children, the elderly and frontline workers in need. And now, he’s imploring you to do something else. Something he has learned from painful experience. He wants you to take precautions against the coronavirus. On Thursday, Bamba revealed to The Athletic that he suffered from COVID-19 in June.

He tried to piece together how he had contracted the virus, concluding that it probably happened on the road trip in New York, Boston or Detroit. He wondered how it was possible that other members of the Jazz didn’t test positive given that he shared locker rooms with his teammates and received massages from team staffers. As he recovered, he concluded that he probably wasn’t the first NBA player to contract the virus — just the first to return a positive test. He might have been careless with the microphones, but Mitchell or Wood easily could have exposed him to the virus rather than the other way around.

Sacramento’s starting small forward tested positive for the coronavirus over the Fourth of July weekend and struggled to clear the NBA’s protocol, but he never had symptoms. That was not the case for his wife Brittany or his mother Shirley, who were both with him in Sacramento. “In my household, my wife and my mom both tested positive for COVID,” Barnes said following the Kings’ 106-102 win over the Clippers. “My wife was sick, really sick for about a week, my mom was sick for a couple of days. In our household, we were able to see the different ranges of how COVID can hurt your system, how serious it is, and how important it is to wear a mask.”

The Wizards and Nuggets have a scrimmage at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. The Nuggets have been decimated during this pandemic, with a confirmed case for their star Nikola Jokic, who has returned to practice, while rotation players Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris, and Michael Porter Jr. are either not with the team or have arrived (late) to Florida and can’t yet play. Coach Michael Malone has said they haven’t had enough players to work 5-on-5 situations at practice. Sources say as many as nine inside Denver’s basketball operation contracted the virus.

The Suns announced Wednesday guards Elie Okobo and rookie Jalen Lecque also are not with the team at Walt Disney World Resort for “personal reasons.” Team officials also said they expect Baynes, Lecque and Okobo to join the team at “a later date.” Sources have informed The Republic a third Suns player has tested positive for the virus. A previously infected person has to have at least two consecutive negative tests to join the team and then clear quarantine once in the bubble.

Exactly one month before announcing he’s tested positive for COVID-19, Russell Westbrook was hanging poolside at Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas. Westbrook was with a group of friends, including former NFL running back Reggie Bush, fashion jeweler Greg Yuna, bodybuilders and trainers Mike Rashid and Valeriu Guto and Wynn club host Jai Shaun White at the outdoor dayclub on June 13. The group posed for a photo at one of the party space’s VIP bungalows.

Responding to a question asking if Westbrook had contracted the virus at the hotel, Wynn Las Vegas referred to company policy that it does not disclose personal information about guests. Generally, the statement read: “Any guest diagnosed with COVID-19 while visiting the resort is reported to the Southern Nevada Health District, which conducts community contact tracing. Our internal contact tracing determines who in the resort the guest has had contact with and what areas they visited; relevant contacts are informed for testing and the areas visited are thoroughly sanitized.

In a virtual interview with Fortune Brainstorm Health, Silver said the NBA expects more positive coronavirus cases to pop up as teams arrive to the NBA campus at Walt Disney World resort this week. But once teams arrive, all personnel will be tested and must quarantine for at least two days. “We won’t be surprised when they first come down to Orlando if we have some additional players test positive,” Silver told Fortune Brainstorm Health. “What would be most concerning is once players enter this campus and then go through our quarantine period, then if they were to test positive or if we were to have any positive tests, we would know we would have an issue.” “… We would know that there’s in essence a hole in our bubble or that our quarantine or our campus is not working in some way,” Silver added later. “So that would be very concerning.”

Silver said the NBA’s campus with daily testing and guidance from medical experts is “as protected as possible from the environment around us.” “So on paper, and dealing with our experts, this should work,” Silver said. “But we shall see. I’m confident based on the positive cases we are seeing from our players and the general public around the country that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus in part because we are going to be doing daily testing. But again this virus has humbled many so I am not going to express any higher level of confidence than we are following the protocols and we hope it works as we designed it.”

Silver reiterated that the league likely will not be forced to shut down again due to one potential positive coronavirus test inside campus. However, a spread could bring the NBA to a halt again. “I think we do have the ability to trace, of course to try to understand where that positive case came from,” Silver said of any positive cases inside the Walt Disney World campus. “We can actually analyze the virus itself and try to track whether if there is more than one case, if it’s in essence the same virus and same genetic variation of the virus that is passed from one player to another or two people have gotten it on the campus independently. So those are all things that we are looking at.”

(The Bucks) had to shut down their facility over the weekend because of positive test. How much of a concern is that for the team that is right now the favor to win at all? Malika Andrews: I checked in with a source with the Bucks and they just told me that they are mostly bummed about the timing. They are not expected to open the facility again before they traveled to Orlando this week. And for a lot of guys, these last two weeks they’ve actually been able to be inside the practice facility is the first time they’ve been able to touch a basketball in a while.

The WNBA announced Monday that seven of 137 (5.1%) tested players were positive for COVID-19, and that 11 of the league’s 12 teams will report to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. for its season start-up by the end of the day. The one exception in that travel schedule is the Indiana Fever. After sustaining two positive tests in their organization, the Fever’s travel will be delayed at least five days “in an abundance of caution due to the CDC’s close contact self-quarantine requirements,” according to a statement from the league.

Spencer Dinwiddie: Protocol only calls for 7 days and negative tests not the 14 day standard. Yep, the plan would be to fly to Orlando after workout. For players that show up late, it might make it difficult to resume season at all due to more rigorous testing requirements.

The WNBA announced Monday that seven of 137 (5.1%) tested players were positive for COVID-19, and that 11 of the league’s 12 teams will report to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. for its season start-up by the end of the day. The one exception in that travel schedule is the Indiana Fever. After sustaining two positive tests in their organization, the Fever’s travel will be delayed at least five days “in an abundance of caution due to the CDC’s close contact self-quarantine requirements,” according to a statement from the league.

Marks confirmed that Spencer Dinwiddie may not be playing in Orlando because he recently tested positive for coronavirus. Dinwiddie, who remains on the Nets’ 36-person travel list, told The Athletic that he is not sure if he will join the team when the season resumes later this month. “I would hope these guys decide to do what’s best for them and for their health and family first and foremost. If they decide to go to Orlando, we know we’ll be taking best care possible of them,” Marks said. “But at the end of the day it goes back to what I said before: Everybody has a different set of circumstances in their life that they’re dealing with whether that’s family issues or the health and wellness of themselves. And we need to support those guys whatever decision that they make.”


Nikola Jokic feeling 'great'

Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic is feeling “great” and is expected to return to the United States in time to join the team flight to Orlando, Florida, according to coach Michael Malone. Jokic had his return to Denver delayed after testing positive for the coronavirus in Serbia, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported on June 23. “Nikola feels great,” Malone said in a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday. “We are working on getting him back here. Next Tuesday we depart for Orlando; the hope and expectation is that Nikola Jokic will be with us on that plane. From everything that I have heard and talked to him, he feels great, he feels fine and is excited to get back.”

Spencer Dinwiddie: Just to be clear I haven’t opted out and want to play like I told @ShamsCharania . Unfortunately I have been one of the cases that has various symptoms.

Kellan Olson: Devin Booker confirmed the report of a couple Suns players testing positive for COVID-19 on his stream (twitch.tv/dbook). He said they are getting tested every two days and for today’s they came to his house.

Jokic's father: 'Nikola is fine'

Branislav Jokic talked to Nova.rs about his son, Nikola Jokic, testing positive for coronavirus. The Denver Nuggets player is fine and with his family, his father pointed out confirming that the 25-year-old Serbian center found out he was coronavirus positive last week and that he has not shown any symptoms. “We are all fine. Nikola is fine. It’s been a week,” he mentioned, “What he had is gone. He is not showing symptoms. He is with us and everything is fine.”

Two Suns players test positive for COVID-19

Two Phoenix Suns players have tested positive for coronavirus, sources have informed The Arizona Republic. The positive tests led to Suns temporarily shutting down voluntary workouts at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, sources say. Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo, Frank Kaminsky III, Dario Saric, Jevon Carter, Aron Baynes, Jalen Lecque and Cheick Diallo have participated in them based on a video the team posted earlier this month in their “Don’t Sleep on Basketball” series. The players were having workouts at the arena Tuesday morning. There has been a notable increase in COVID-19 cases in Arizona.

The Republic reported Monday that according to state data, more than 1,000 new cases have been reported on each of the past 13 days, with more than 2,000 new cases reported on each of the past five days. Mandatory testing is scheduled to begin Tuesday for NBA players and essential staff members of each team. Phoenix’s third-leading scorer, Kelly Oubre Jr., has opted not to play due to injury as he had knee surgery March 3. Players have until Wednesday to notify teams that they’re not participating in the season resumption, according to The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski: As coronavirus testing for players heading to Orlando starts today, teams are bracing for significant numbers of positive tests. One Western Conference playoff team had four positives in past few weeks, per sources. Full training camps start on July 11 at Disney. It’s a bigger concern for non-guaranteed playoff teams to lose players to extended quarantine before Orlando. Playoff teams worried less about needing key players for seeding games in August have more time to get players back to shape. All are worried about soft-tissue injuries.
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March 2, 2021 | 9:34 pm EST Update