NBA Rumor: Coronavirus Vaccine

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Within all of that, there was always going to be skepticism from the public that — whether it was the NBA or other pro sports leagues — the wealthy were going to jump the line (with the vaccine). I almost feel like it would make people feel good to know that someone who is guiding a lot of the protocol with the NBA is not a hired gun who only focuses on their priorities, if that makes sense. Dr. Leroy Sims: It does make sense, and what we’re doing on the NBA side is exactly what you indicated. We’re respecting public health guidelines, seeing what the CDC says and following what states and local governments and departments of health recommend. So to your point, we are not jumping the line. We are not looking to get ahead of anyone. What we’re doing is making sure that the essential and frontline workers have access to the vaccine, that people who are — from a health point of view — the most vulnerable, they have access to the vaccine. We don’t want to be in a position where we’re taking vaccines away from ER doctors or people who live in nursing homes or people with chronic medical conditions. We understand that and respect that. When the question does come up — when can we get vaccinated? — and I lay out the information about how the distribution is working right now, people go, “Yeah, I understand that.”

As a white man who has learned more and more on this front, I wonder if you think the players’ concerns are born out of the specific history here or is it also a generational thing where guys’ parents told them to be careful with the medical community (without the cultural context)? Dr. Leroy Sims: All those things are in play, Sam, because you have people who do know the history. These are some very well-read and savvy guys. They know the history. But also, they live in some of these communities, or come from some of these communities, and have seen the impacts up close and personal and have lived it. So there’s that piece that can’t be overlooked, that there is a familiarity with what’s happening. And it’s a beautiful thing that our guys stay in touch with the community. And they’re role models. And it is for that reason that we do want to partner with our players. We do want their support. We do want them to be spokesmen regarding this vaccine, and even though they can’t get vaccinated right now, we hope that they’ll lend support to family members who may be eligible to get vaccinated. So that’s one of the calls that I have: Can you all support us that way? And hopefully, when it’s your turn and we can vaccinate you, you’ll get vaccinated as well.

On a call with league general managers on Tuesday, commissioner Adam Silver continued to tell top team executives that the league wouldn’t “jump the line” of the general public to get vaccines, but he suggested an optimistic timeline that included the possibility of late March and early April for the start of player vaccinations, sources said. Nevertheless, that’s considered a fluid timeline, largely meant to reaffirm to teams the need to be prepared for whenever the opportunity to vaccinate players comes from public health officials, sources said.

Mavs inviting vaccinated essential workers to arena

Starting with Monday night’s home game against Minnesota, the Mavericks finally will have fans in American Airlines Center, but not just any fans: 1,500 essential workers, who will be admitted for free. “We owe so much to people who have put their lives at risk to make us safer,” said Mavs owner, Mark Cuban said in a news release. “Bringing them to a Mavs game is the least we can do!”


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Which is why any suggestion to speed up the process of inoculating N.B.A. players is a tricky social, economic and political proposal. I don’t agree with Charles Barkley that professional athletes “deserve some preferential treatment” because of how “much taxes these players pay.” That argument suggests that the lives of those who make more money (and presumably pay more taxes) are somehow more valuable than the nurses, police officers, emergency medical workers, grocery clerks, and others risking their lives daily. This is, of course, untrue. N.B.A. players don’t deserve to move to the front of the line because they are rich or because the country needs basketball during these isolating times. It’s not a matter of deserving as much as a way to get to herd immunity faster.

Tom Orsborn: Pop on why he did the COVID-19 vaccine PSA: “We are in dire circumstances. It’s kind of amazing to me that there’s a swath of our population that still doesn’t believe that. But somebody a whole lot more incisive and smarter is going to have to figure that one out. If we can do our part in any way in making people feel comfortable that getting this shot is wise both for them and everybody else around them, I think we need to do it.”

The New York City native, who is a hedge fund manager, is considering running for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin in 2022. He was also host committee chair for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was awarded to Milwaukee but then moved online due to the pandemic. Lasry, son of Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, said his wife, Lauren, got a call Monday from her uncle, who is rabbi at Ovation Chai Point Senior Living, saying the senior living center had some extra, unused vaccine doses.

“There was some skepticism,” Sims told The Undefeated in a phone interview on Jan. 22. “They asked, ‘Were Black people included in the clinical trials? How did they really know it worked?’ I used a slide with results and graphs showing treatment vs. placebo. I walked them through the vaccine development process and how this timeline works. It helped knowing that I got vaccinated after having my own hesitation initially, which I shared. I told them that it wasn’t mandatory that I got vaccinated, but my research and reviews helped me make my decision. I said I would recommend it to grandma. That I swayed her helped them too.

“Just being able to have someone break it down for them, someone speaking to them who they know and trust, and someone there to answer all their questions gave everyone across the board more comfort with the vaccines. I appealed to the reality that they, my parents and elders, got other vaccines and vaccinated us throughout the years. So, I know they aren’t anti-vaxxers. I encouraged them to ask questions, remain curious and make informed decisions, and not just accept things based on blind faith, because medicine is supposed to be based on evidence.”

What is the state of the NBA as it attempts to play out the season with the challenges that come with COVID-19? I would say that if you judge us independently of what happened in the bubble, we’re doing as well as we expected and are probably where we thought we would be. Judging us against the bubble, where we were in a controlled environment and we had no players test positive, then it makes the season seem like a contrast. But in reality, in both situations, we were able to generate health and safety protocols to keep people healthy and safe. If you look at where we are with this season, we’re playing the majority of our games.

When do you think NBA players and the coaching staff will start getting the vaccine? We’re not jumping the line. We understand that the vaccine is rolling out in such a way that you’re trying to get to the people who are most at risk or most vulnerable first, that includes front-line workers like myself working in the ER [emergency room], because we’re around so many people who could have the virus. It includes people who are elderly, living in congregate settings, like nursing homes, or people who have chronic medical conditions. Those people who are at risk of severe complications, hospitalizations or deaths if they were to get COVID, we’re focused on them. After that, we’ll open it up. The vaccine will start to be distributed to others in the community.

We recognize that our basketball players are young and healthy, so they will get vaccinated or have the opportunity to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. So we won’t be jumping the line there. As it relates to some of our coaches and older individuals, some of them are in categories that allow them to get vaccinated. But that will bear out the way that the local hospitals, departments of public health, are rolling out the vaccine and setting up the prioritization.

Abdul-Jabbar’s endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine is significant both because of his health history and his efforts to speak out on various social justice issues. Abdul-Jabbar, 73, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia 11 years ago. He revealed in a recent article for WebMD that he has also had prostate cancer and heart bypass surgery. Abdul-Jabbar told USA TODAY Sports last year that the treatment for leukemia is “an ongoing thing.”

“I got some very close friends. And really smart people have said to me, ‘Michele, it’s a no-brainer, of course, you’ll take the vaccine,’” Roberts said in a recent phone conversation with Yahoo Sports. “Unlike my players, I’m considerably older than they are and probably further up on the list. “But I haven’t made up my mind. I’m eager to be convinced that these are safe. I’m hopeful I’ll be convinced that they’re safe. But I’m not a cheerleader … I’m not at a place yet where I would wholeheartedly and fulsomely say, absolutely, you have to take it.”

NBA doesn't want to cut in line for COVID-19 vaccine

The NBA, according to league sources, is very sensitive to being accused of taking advantage and giving its players the vaccine ahead of frontline workers, the vulnerable and the elderly. “We won’t jump the line” is a familiar refrain stated by commissioner Adam Silver. But given the sporadic distribution and seemingly passive response by the current administration, there’s no rhyme or reason to “the line” after the obvious people who will receive it.

The league has answered questions on myriad topics with the players, ranging from players who’ve caught the virus already and are unsure of taking the vaccine, to the function of the antibodies with the vaccine. It can suggest but not demand players take it — which may or may not be reflective of what’s to come nationally. “So … if I don’t see a national requirement, a federal requirement — [President-elect] Biden’s often said that he’s not prepared to go down that road,” Roberts said. “But I think that there are going to be enough pockets of industry, where you will see [pseudo]-requirements. I think that some private employers might be able to do it.”

In an interview Tuesday morning, Nets and BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi told CNBC that the NBA will face huge losses without fans in the stands this season, but he’s hopeful that as things return to normal with COVID vaccines, arenas will be full again by the post-season. Abbamondi added he’s also hopeful that the NBA season will survive “bumps along this road” as the play resumes while the pandemic continues to rage across the country. The concern, he said, begins with players testing positive for the coronavirus.

Abbamondi told CNBC that NBA teams hope they’ll be able to welcome fans back in time for the postseason, when gate revenues —and team profits— are usually at their highest. In the meantime, the league has raised $900 million and will provide teams with $30 million each to stay afloat for the year. “We are optimistic that before this season is over, which will be in the summer of next year, things are going to look very different,” Abbamondi said. “There is a lot of caution, but there’s also a sense of optimism, and I think all Americans share that.”

When asked about the idea of the league returning to a bubble for the playoffs, Silver said that anything is a possibility, but his hope is the vaccine for COVID-19 is successful enough that by the time the playoffs are scheduled to start in late May, there is a chance fans could be back in arenas. “It’s our hope that given the planned rollout of the vaccine that we’ll be going in the other direction, that it’ll become increasingly more likely that there will be a return to a home-court advantage,” Silver said. “That come May, June, July, which right now our season is targeted to end mid-July, that by that point there really will be a meaningful opportunity to have fans in our building.”

Some in NBA raise questions about vaccine

Carlisle has made that decision partly because his wife is an infectious disease doctor. Others, however, say they need more information before committing, including Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes and coach Luke Walton, Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby and Suns coach Monty Williams. “As a father, I can’t just put anything in my body that will keep me from being the best father I can be. So I got to study more,” Williams said. “But I also trust the people that we have in the league. Once they give us the information that we need, as it relates to taking the vaccine, if it’s something that I’m comfortable with, I’ll do it. But I haven’t received that yet. So it’s hard to make that assessment.”

A key NBA player tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year, leaving him further educated on the virus and the time it takes to recover from it. Yet, Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner sounded apprehensive about the vaccine. “I’ve had the antibodies. We’re getting tested on the regular. So I’m doing whatever it takes to keep myself as safe as possible,” Turner said. “But as far as the vaccination, I personally don’t roll with the first round of things. I’d like to see how things roll out.”

The prominent NBA coach has become increasingly impressed with the league’s health and safety protocols to mitigate risk with the coronavirus. Therefore, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers sounded just as comfortable with taking a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. “Because I trust it. I’m not a conspiracist right now,” Rivers said. “Obviously you want it to be done right. You’re hoping that all the things that should have been done have been done by the FDA and everybody else. But I have no problem taking it.”

Mark Cuban expecting fans back to arenas by spring

Sirius XM NBA: “Those last couple of months of the NBA season are going to be incredible.” Mark Cuban tells Frank Isola & Brian Scalabrine he’s confident a vaccine will help get NBA arenas rocking by the spring.

As multiple COVID-19 vaccines are in the final stages of approval, reports have circulated about how the NBA plans to approach mandatory or voluntary vaccination for players, coaches and team and league employees. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, also the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, isn’t for a rigid requirement. But he talked before the Mavericks’ preseason opener Saturday about his personal willingness to receive the vaccine.

What the Warriors need now, besides time, is some help from the outside world. Cases in California leveling out would be ideal. The risk of creating a super-spreader event is too much for the city to allow thousands of fans in any building. And the questions now: Will the Warriors show that their plan is foolproof? Or will the city find a way to accept the risk before a vaccine becomes widespread enough to make it irrelevant? Stone’s optimistic thoughts point toward March. Some estimates have the vaccine reaching much of the general public a few months later. There could be a window between the two when the Warriors’ plan could be approved but before the vaccine fully arrives: the NBA playoffs.

According to an array of discussions with league executives, team physicians and agents the league has been focusing on a few key areas: • A need to create an educational program for players and staff about vaccine choices, possible side effects and efficacy with the intent to put players at ease and be willing to take it. While this process is still in the earliest stages, some players have already begun expressing hesitation to their agents and team doctors about the vaccine, sources told ESPN. Educating the players about the measures taken to prevent the virus at the bubble in Orlando proved effective in fostering cooperation.

“I would guess that for most players, they will be willing to take it,” said a prominent agent, who represents numerous players. “I think there will be a societal push for as many as possible to take it.” Others feel it will be a harder sell. Among the issues, sources said, is numerous players who have had the virus — and now have some level of antibodies — may need to be convinced the vaccine is necessary. Between the season restart last summer and the start of this season’s training camp, the NBA announced around 100 positive tests for players and staff. But that does not account for the numerous players and coaches who contracted the virus during the shutdown and in the offseason, only a few of whom have elected to publicly self identify.

The need to create a policy for how quickly the league will seek injections. Regardless of its resources, league officials know there are higher-risk populations that take priority including medical-care workers, nursing home residents, essential workers, and others. The NBA aims to respect whatever guidelines and criteria are enforced by the government and medical agencies concerning which populations will receive a vaccine early, sources said. With that said, league sources say the NBA doesn’t plan to enforce any specific rules that would prohibit an individual from trying to obtain a vaccine if they wanted one while it’s available. Even if that would mean some players and teams might get access to the vaccine earlier than peers who play and live in another city. League executives are already recognizing this type of policy could lead to a competitive balance issue at some point if some teams have the chance to be inoculated before others.

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