NBA Rumor: Coronavirus Vaccine

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Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic said that he’s been trying to buy a supply of unused vaccines from the United States and send them to his native Bosnia. Unfortunately, he’s not legally allowed to do it. “They just have donations, but not enough to vaccinate the people,” Nurkic said in a story by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “I tried to buy it for the whole country. I figured out the money, the plan and everything. But we still can’t do it.” “Even if we find vaccines, I guess United States laws say that until the American people are vaccinated, you can’t sell it. So, I don’t know what else to do. I really tried.”

There’s been an abundance of COVID-19 vaccines in the USA and Nurkic feels frustrated by the fact that he can’t purchase it to help the people of his country while others refuse to get it. “All these countries are suffering and you have the United States, obviously the No. 1 in the world, has the vaccines and people don’t want to get vaccinated,” Nurkic said. “I just feel like humanity has kind of failed, because all the countries around should get at least some of those vaccines, right?”

The Toronto Raptors were the only team in the National Basketball Association not to play in its home arena this season, due to Covid-19 restrictions. On Sunday, they’re handing over the venue to health authorities to smash Canada’s one-day record for vaccinations at a single site. About 25,000 people have appointments for the clinic at the Scotiabank Arena, located in the city’s financial district. Joe Cressy, the chair of the city’s board of health, has claimed it’s bigger than any clinic in the world.

New Yorkers who get vaccinated at Madison Square Garden will have a chance to score a free ticket to a Knicks playoff game starting Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced. “The New York Knicks are joining us to speed up the vaccinations in the city, to reach more people and keep them safe,” Hizzoner said during his daily virtual press briefing while wearing a blue Knicks cap. “The Knicks are bringing the vaccination effort right there, to the Garden.”

The Portland Trail Blazers, local government and Oregon Health Authority have partnered on a first-of-its-kind proposal, promoting vaccinations across Oregon while increasing Moda Center capacity with Vaccinated Sections. The announcement comes just in time for Rip City to cheer on the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers as they host the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in round one of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs, presented by Moda Health and your local Toyota dealers. The Trail Blazers are the only team with a playoffs berth in each of the last eight seasons. The Trail Blazers will host games three and four of the best-of-seven series at Moda Center May 27 at 7:30 p.m. and May 29 at 1:00 p.m. After Saturday’s win, the Blazers are 1-0 in the series, and will face the Nuggets again tonight in Denver at 7:00 p.m. If necessary, game five will return to Denver on June 1; game six at Moda Center on June 3; and a decisive game seven back in Denver on June 5.

Close to 80 percent of NBA players have had COVID-19 vaccine

Meanwhile, as cities across the country ease restrictions on movement and gathering as the number of vaccinations for COVID-19 increases, Silver stopped short of committing to completely full arenas by the time the NBA Finals roll around in July. And while seats around the court will remain in fewer numbers than normal, he expressed confidence that there will be far more fans than he expected in the seats as the playoffs move along. “I think it’s very possible that come July, when our Finals will be, you’ll see essentially full buildings,” said Silver, who added that “close to 80%” of all NBA players have had COVID-19 vaccinations.

“What was already an incredibly exciting time around Knicks basketball has just gotten even more exciting,” said MSG Sports executive chairman James Dolan. “All of those fans for Knicks playoff games are going to be loud, they’re going to be passionate and they’re going to be ready. The Garden is going to rock. We hope the team gives all of New York something to cheer about, and that this marks the start of a busy summer for the growing number of vaccinated people.”

75 percent of NBA players have been vaccinated

Around 75% of the NBA’s players have been vaccinated, sources said, and commissioner Adam Silver continues to appeal to front-office executives to encourage further player participation ahead of the start of the playoffs next week. Beyond the broader health benefits of vaccinations, sources said, Silver outlined on a recent call with the league’s GMs the concern that all playoff-bound teams share: Losing a key player for a week could decide a playoff series.

Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee said he tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Lee, 28, is considered one of the rare “breakthrough cases” — one of only 6,000 or so people who have tested positive for the virus after going through the full vaccination process, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I did test positive for COVID about two weeks ago,” Lee said prior to Thursday night’s 118-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I did get the vaccine the middle, end of March, but essentially this was just a rare breakthrough case. … Right now, there’s no timeline in the immediate future for me coming back and playing.”

On Saturday night, Clifford sounded more concerned that basketball fans might hear the news about his positive test and mistakenly conclude that vaccines are not effective or worth getting. Indeed, Clifford was not fully vaccinated when he likely was exposed to the virus. But he added that, if the tests were not false positives, he hopes the initial vaccine will make it less likely he develops COVID-19 symptoms. “I just don’t understand why anybody would be against the vaccination,” Clifford said. “I think that the more people that do it in our country, it’s better for all of us.”

Basketball Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal joined former president Barack Obama on an NBC special Sunday night to encourage Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines. The former NBA players — who have remained highly visible through their roles as analysts for “Inside the NBA” on TNT — exchanged humorous barbs and briefly spoke with O’Neal’s mother before Obama joined them. “So I’m playing Kenny the Jet,” Obama joked when he joined the duo, in reference to Kenny Smith, who is an analyst alongside Barkley and O’Neal on “Inside the NBA.”

“Now, as the vaccine becomes more available, I want to make sure that our communities, particularly ones — African American, Latino — as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal,” Obama added. “The sooner we get more people vaccinated the better off we’re going to be.” Barkley said he’s on the verge of getting his second vaccine shot, and O’Neal said he’s been vaccinated, along with family members with underlying conditions. “But I’m not worried about me or my family. I’m worried about the average mom and dad,” O’Neal said.

The exact number is not known. Getting the vaccine is a personal choice. The organization did not make it mandatory. Not all of the players agreed to it. But a source said a “fair amount of players” received the one-time Johnson and Johnson shot. There are currently 15 guys on the roster, including Lamar Stevens and Brodric Thomas, both of whom are currently on two-way contracts. “It was a great turnout,” a source said.

Because it was Johnson and Johnson, members of the organization who received the vaccine during that rollout will not need a second dose. According to a source, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, 42, received his vaccine earlier, prior to knowing it would be available to the entire team on March 30. Bickerstaff had the first dose of Moderna. His second shot is scheduled for Monday, April 12 — a team off day following a weekend back-to-back and before the Cavaliers travel to Charlotte for a one-off road game, sources say.

Some players still hesitant to get vaccinated

Despite the Herculean efforts of the NBA and the NBPA, the league is encountering a variety of problems in trying to get everyone in the league vaccinated against COVID-19. The teams having the most difficulty getting vaccinations include the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers, BasketballNews.com has learned. Numerous league sources described the situation as an ongoing, daily dilemma in which they are fighting against misinformation, historical truths about government abuse of vaccination programs in Black communities and logistical complications based upon different vaccination qualification rules in different states.

With the United States entering what the government is calling the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 infections, the slow return to normalcy is proving difficult in both the NBA and society at large. A league source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said teams have been instructed by the league office that they cannot jump the line to get members of their organizations vaccinated, and nobody will be forced to be vaccinated against their will. But at the same time, extraordinary efforts are being made to educate players and team personnel about the merits of vaccination.

One source said that one of the most difficult tasks has been dispelling myths being perpetuated by anti-vaccine advocates whose information is being re-reported by some mainstream media companies and spreading on social media and online forums. Privately, players have expressed that they are hesitant to get the vaccine due to systemic distrust in the U.S. government, in large part due to the infamous “Tuskegee Experiment,” league sources told BasketballNews.com.

For James in particular, outwardly stating that he received a vaccine, or planned to, would be the greatest thing he has ever done. Greater than any made basket, any championship won, any school opened or voting rights campaign spearheaded. “I think the opinions and actions of trusted sports icons could make a difference in encouraging their fans to get the vaccine,” Cheryl B. Prince, a retired epidemiologist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1980 to 2019, told The Undefeated.

Bazemore considers his decision “a lifestyle thing,” as he is not keen on making allowances. “I do everything I can to strengthen my immune system, with hours upon hours of cooking, preparing my meals at home, really being conscious of what I put in my body and taking care of my health,” he said. “My family has a history of heart disease and all these different things, and I’m trying to turn that around for my lineage. So, I’m taking it upon myself to do everything I can to keep my immune system strong and live a healthy and long life.”
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July 31, 2021 | 3:05 am EDT Update
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That pushed Hield to the forefront. But even as the possibility of a deal built around Kyle Kuzma and Harrell began to form, the Lakers kept the door open to a Westbrook deal. Westbrook asserted his voice into the conversation, and per an NBA source, the Wizards pivoted. Just like that, the pieces the Kings liked for Hield were no longer available.