All-Star starter and MVP candidate Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will sit out Sunday’s All-Star Game after having contact with their personal barber in Philadelphia, who tested positive for COVID-19.
The league made it official just minutes after Doc Rivers, the Philadelphia and Team Durant All-Star coach, confirmed the news and said it was “not looking great” that the two 76ers stars would be able to play in the game, scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. “We’re still waiting for the NBA to tell us what the next steps are,” Rivers said.
The league sent out a simple press release saying the pair “had contact with an individual who is confirmed today to have tested positive for the coronavirus” and would miss the game. Shams Charania of The Athletic had broken the story and filled in the details.
The exposure occurred with Embiid and Simmons‘ personal barber who had a positive test result and is awaiting another test. Both traveled by themselves on private planes, and had no exposure to other players or people down in Atlanta bubble. https://t.co/PeiSFzzPZS
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 7, 2021
Embiid is a starter for Team Durant, while Simmons is a member of Team LeBron’s reserves.
Zion Williamson will start in place of Embiid for Team Durant.
At this point, hours before the game, it’s too late for the NBA to bring replacement players to Atlanta and have them go through the medical testing. The two teams will have 11 players instead of 12.
The pair did not have contact with other All-Star players at the team hotel, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The two Sixers stars will be quarantined for seven days, by league protocols.
The NBA has had 31 games postponed this season due to the coronavirus, plus it has been without stars and other players for extended periods due to positive tests. It seems fitting somehow that COVID-19 would impact the All-Star Game as well.
“In terms of the first half of the season, it went essentially as we had expected,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday, putting his positive spin on things. “We ended up playing 95% of our games. We knew we were going to get positive cases for players and staff members operating out of the bubble. I felt our protocols held up as well as we could have hoped. It seems that we are able, through our testing protocols, to catch infections very early. The goal was to catch infections before people become infectious and prevent spread. We feel we’ve done that fairly effectively.”