Tuesday night, the Chicago Bulls game against the Detroit Pistons was postponed because of how many Bulls’ players are in COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The same thing will happen to the Bulls game against the Raptors Thursday. The Brooklyn Nets played with just eight players (and won) because seven of their players are in protocols. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was not on the bench due to protocols for his team’s last game, and Kings coach Alvin Gentry will be with his team Wednesday night for the same reason. As of Tuesday, 34 NBA players were currently in the protocols, something Tom Haberstroh is tracking.
34 in NBA H+S Protocols
BRK: LMA, Bembry, JJ, Carter, Millsap, Harden, BB
CHI: 10 players
LAL: THT, D. Howard, M. Monk
MEM: Ja Morant
MIL: Giannis, DD, Wes Matthews
NYK: RJ Barrett, Toppin, Grimes
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 15, 2021
Executives with NBA teams expect things to get worse before they get better, reports Baxter Holmes at ESPN.
Team executives and other health officials around the NBA said they expect that more players will have to enter health and safety protocols after Christmas and New Year’s due to the likelihood of increasing cases of COVID-19 nationwide as people gather indoors for the holidays.
That mirrors national trends and other professional leagues. The NFL has had more than 70 players test positive, the Premier League had to postpone a game due to an outbreak, and the NHL is facing a serious host of challenges.
However, because there is now a vaccine and 97% of NBA players have gotten it — plus a reported 60% have gotten boosters — executives do not fear the mass postponement of games or other steps seen last season.
Many team officials said that while they’re concerned about anyone testing positive for COVID-19, the situation isn’t considered as dire as it was last season, when 31 games were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks around the league.
“This is so much more manageable than it was a year ago,” one Eastern Conference general manager said. “In general, the urgency is not there like it was then. [But] things can change in a week or two. The NBA has made that clear.”
The recent increase in cases has shattered the perception of the NBA having a “normal” season, as it felt for this campaign’s first couple of months.
That said, increased restrictions on players — something that would have to be negotiated with the players’ union — also seems unlikely. Like the rest of society, the NBA is going to have to learn how to adapt to the virus and live with it on some level.
And keep its players and team staff as safe as possible.