NBA Rumor: Coronavirus Positives

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ESPN reported that more than a third of the league’s referees were in COVID protocols at the end of December. But, as with players and coaches, the regular referees are, slowly, coming back. “We’re coming out of the worst of it,” NBA Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training Monty McCutchen said Tuesday, noting the combination of vaccines and boosters — all required by the league for officials to work NBA games this season — along with the antibodies produced in healthy people who have gotten the vaccines and boosters but nonetheless test positive. “That being said, we’ve had to lean on other people,” he said. “And we’ve been proud of their work. … We’ve lost, it seems to me, this ability to allow people a proper apprenticeship. We tend to want our first-year players to be immediate successes. We want our first-year coaches to be immediate successes. And, of course, refereeing is always judged up against this unreasonable standard of perfection, instead of where are they on their arc, and are they doing excellent for that arc of growth?”

Having streamlined its teaching points for officials working across all of its leagues — NBA, WNBA, G League and the new Basketball Africa League — the league expects similarity in its referee mechanics. McCutchen acknowledged that a G League official obviously won’t be as experienced or ready to jump into an NBA game as the NBA’s veteran officials, but the league does expect the G League and other referee call-ups to handle “their third” — the area of the floor where, depending on each of the ref’s assignments in a given game, to which they’re supposed to pay attention — at a high level. “I need you to be asserted and disciplined,” McCutchen said. “If I’m assertive within my disciplined area of responsibility, the NBA goes off really well. And because we’ve trained, I hate to be overly flippant about it, but ‘wax on, wax off’ works in life. When you really get in there, when we see somebody go out of (their) primary, and for us, that means they’re stretching too far, we’re holding people accountable to that. We’re saying ‘no, that’s not your responsibility.’”

He cites as an example a referee who responds to constant chirping from players that they’re being pushed around in the paint by calling a “weak” pushing foul. “You can see a direct relationship to that,” he said. “We’re holding people accountable to that. We’re saying, ‘Wait a minute; we have a standard at the NBA of what a push is.’ But there’s also the desire to make sure that people’s strength isn’t demeaning, or lessening, to other people. In the spirit of competition, those lines get blurred — amongst player to player, amongst player to coach. You hear when players get passionate with one another, ‘Oh, that’s just part of it.’ I don’t want to make excuses for officials, because we expect good communication. We expect professional communication.”

Elfrid Payton on COVID: 'It's almost inevitable'

“They waited for me,” Payton said. “They waited for me on the plane.” That concluded a wacky week for Payton, 27, as he was in and out of the league’s protocols where more than 100 players landed last month alone during this worldwide surge of COVID-19 cases. “It’s just out of control to be honest,” Payton said. “It’s crazy. It’s nothing I don’t think we can really do to be honest. You see people with the booster still getting it. You see people who got the regular vaccine get it. It’s almost inevitable. You’ve just got to deal with it.”

Trae Young: ‘I came to shootaround today not knowing most of my teammates’

“I came to shootaround (Wednesday) not knowing most of my teammates,” Young said. “Nate never wants to make excuses. I’m not the type to make excuses, but it’s frustrating when you look around the league and other teams have gotten games postponed. It’s not even canceling them but it’s moving them because of what’s going on with the COVID outbreaks. We got hit hard by COVID. It’s frustrating not getting games postponed.”

Although vaccinated and boosted, being three years shy of 70 made him understandably more nervous. “I took a PCR test and our trainer called me about 6 in the morning and said, ‘Hey, you’re positive,’ ” Gentry told The Undefeated. “Obviously, that’s a word you don’t want to hear when you’re talking about COVID … it’s positive? I was very nervous about it because of my age. Hey, other than Pop [Gregg Popovich, who is 72], I’m the oldest coach in the league. So you think, ‘Wow, I’m 67. I just tested positive. What is this going to do?’ “I was nervous as heck because everything about this when you’re my age puts you in a scary situation. ‘How am I going to react? What’s going to be the symptoms? How intense are the symptoms going to be?’ So all of those things right there get you into a situation where you go, ‘Wow.’ “

LeBron was asked about the Lakers’ defensive struggles vs. San Antonio — who scored the most points vs. Los Angeles in a regulation game since January of 2020. He credited Spurs’ execution then noted the fact that the Lakers’ best defensive players are in health and safety protocols. “All of our defensive guys are in protocols,” he said, naming Kent Bazemore, Austin Reaves, Trevor Ariza, and Avery Bradley (he unintentionally omitted Anthony Davis, who is sidelined with an MCL sprain). “We don’t need a full roster. We just need some of our guys back.”

Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic had barely finished reading his email on Nov. 11 — the word positive was enough — before he started kicking several members of his very large – and very large – Montenegrin family out of his house. He would be forced to miss a big West Coast road trip for the Bulls, but a Thanksgiving surge of Covid cases was expected to arrive, the team doctors had told him, so he got the Vucevic clan packed up for a vacation to Florida without him. And he was just about to get his booster shot.

“I’ve been getting calls from our players all day – ‘Michele, are they going to cancel Christmas (games)?,’” National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts said Sunday. “People are concerned about who would ultimately be available to play. And the answer is, I don’t know. .. it is, obviously, concerning. There are some questions right now about some of our so-called marquee players’ availability to be able to play on Christmas. That’s our day, and we’d hate to not be able to continue to own that day, But one might ask the question – if your marquee guys are all in quarantine, is it worth playing those games, or should those games be, if they can be, postponed? No one’s asked me. But at this point, I think it’s still coming down to prayer.”

It’s the renewed anxiety about having to go through this again, just as crowds had returned to the league after a year-plus of playing in empty buildings. “We thought we’d gone through the worst, and the notion it might not be the worst is pretty spooky,” Roberts said. “We had, what, 97, 98 percent vax rate. … We thought we’ve done all that’s humanly possible, and we’ll be able to plow through the season. And all of a sudden, it’s worse than it was before. There’s a certain amount of, I guess, depression – now, what else?”

“Then I started getting a little bit of body aches, then you get headaches, next thing you know I’m draining my nose, next thing you know I’m breathing really, really heavy at night,” Rivers told The Denver Post ahead of Friday night’s game against the Hawks, his first with the team since Nov. 29. “Especially at night, I was really struggling a little bit to where I started getting really nervous and scared,” he said. “And then mentally, it plays on your head. Now that you know you have this and you’re breathing hard, you’re overdoing it. I’m thinking crazy, ‘Is it going to get better, or like, what’s going on here?’”
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January 28, 2022 | 7:25 pm EST Update
A caller to WFAN’s “Carton & Roberts” who identified himself as Dylan from Miami said he had “a horrible experience” at Wednesday’s road loss to the Heat. The fan said he was seated behind the visiting bench with his girlfriend when he stood up in the second quarter and yelled “Hey Randle, you get a $118 million contract and this is what I get? The fans get a thumbs down, this is what we get?” The fan insisted during the call that he said “nothing personal” or profane, but he was issued a warning after Randle pointed him out to arena security.