For the first time since 2018-19, the NBA has scheduled a typical 82-game season. After two seasons cut short by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league has felt confident enough in its health and safety protocols to attempt a return to normalcy. There have been no postponements or cancellations related to the coronavirus, but the post-Thanksgiving period is proving difficult for several NBA teams and players.
The Chicago Bulls have had two players who tested positive for the virus. The Charlotte Hornets placed four players – including three starters – into health and safety protocols on December 4. These are just the latest examples. The Philadelphia 76ers played without Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid for nine games apiece after testing positive and symptomatic. Is there a danger that the NBA will have to change its schedule?
The Charlotte Hornets are hit hard
On December 4, the Charlotte Hornets announced via Twitter that four players have entered health and safety protocols, including starting goalies LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier and center Mason Plumlee. Reserve winger Jalen McDaniels was also not available when the Hornets faced the Atlanta Hawks on December 5.
Rod Boone by Charlotte Observer tweeted that the Hornets have called three players from their Greensboro branch in the NBA G League. According to Boone, Charlotte had planned promotions for Kai Jones, James Bouknight and Vernon Carey, but the timing was fortuitous with four rotating players unavailable.
Bouknight, a goalie, was Charlotte’s first-round pick in 2021. Jones, a center from the Bahamas via Texas, entered an overnight New York Knicks draft trade. The Hornets took Carey, another center, from Duke in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Unlike last season, the NBA did not expand the rosters in 2021-2022 to account for missing player time in protocols. When the 76ers were shorthanded, the team played several games with a minimum of eight players available.
After Thanksgiving was rough on the NBA rosters
According to injury reports from the team at ESPN.com, 11 players are in hygiene and safety protocols.
Besides the four Hornets, the Denver Nuggets have lost three players (Austin Rivers, Bones Hyland and Bol Bol), and the Bulls do not have Coby White or Javonte Green after testing positive.
The Indiana Pacers (Justin Holiday) and Los Angeles Clippers (Nicolas Batum) are also out. The Los Angeles Lakers got scared when LeBron James got into protocols and missed the team’s Nov. 30 game against the Sacramento Kings, but returned on Dec. 3.
According to Tim Bontemps of ESPNChicago coach Billy Donovan said law enforcement had tightened after the vacation.
âI don’t think there’s a question going on,â Donovan said. âI think there is going to be; I guess the policies would be stricter than there has been this year. On your point, I think Thanksgiving and you face Christmas and then New Yearsâ¦ people are going to be around the family.
âI think the way it’s going right now is getting more and more strict. Certainly for us at the moment it’s a lot stricter because we have two players who are positive.
Last season, the NBA did not set specific guidelines for postponing games, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
NBA still has Kyrie Irving issue on the back burner
With all the recent activity around NBA health and safety protocols, the case of Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has mostly taken a back seat.
Since the team decided not to allow Irving to play part-time, they’ve been mostly silent on the subject. Irving is not allowed to play in any of New York’s NBA arenas due to the city’s vaccination mandate for public gyms.
There was a similar controversy surrounding Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins due to a similar tenure in San Francisco. Wiggins ultimately complied with the directive and played in every game for the 19-4 Warriors.
The latest development with the pandemic is the emergence of the new Omicron variant. According to Reuters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Dec. 5 that the new mutation had been found in 15 states. CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said the old Delta variant remains the leading cause of coronavirus cases in the United States
In September, the The NBA reported 95% of players have been vaccinated. Among the more notable exceptions are Irving and Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal. In the absence of a vaccination warrant in the District of Columbia, Beal’s player status is unaffected. New York and San Francisco rules do not apply to visiting players.
According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC), âMore than 423 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020 to November 1, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
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