Nikola Jokic

Denver Nuggets
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Report: Nuggets close facility after positive coronavirus tests

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Nuggets star Nikola Jokic reportedly tested positive for coronavirus in Serbia. Nuggets coach Michael Malone contracted coronavirus in March. Another member of the organization was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 19.

There are also new, pressing issues in Denver.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Denver Nuggets closed the team’s practice facility starting on Saturday after a round of positive tests for the coronavirus, sources tell ESPN.

The Nuggets had two members of the team’s 35-person Orlando traveling party — which encompasses players, coaches and staff — initially test positive prior to the weekend shutdown, sources said. There was at least one more positive test since Saturday, sources said.

Mike Singer of The Denver Post:

As the Nets’ situation with Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan showed, a couple positive tests don’t necessarily mean a team-wide breakout. Coronavirus is a threat throughout the world, and players can contract it anywhere.

The NBA has implemented restrictions – testing, distancing, cleaning – designed to minimize the risk of spread within a team facility. But the danger can’t be completely eliminated.

With multiple cases, the Nuggets must investigate whether conditions in their facility were unsafe before continuing to bring people into it.

Seven must-watch games from NBA Orlando restart

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The NBA is back… almost.

The plans are agreed to, the schedule is out, there’s a decision to focus on social justice, and now tip-off of the restarted season is a little more than a month away. Concerns are rising along with the coronavirus cases in Florida, but Friday Adam Silver said it would take a “significant spread” of the virus inside the NBA’s Orlando bubble to shut down the league again.

Which means we can start to focus on the must-watch games on the NBA schedule.

And that new schedule is stacked. Remove the eight worst teams from the mix, throw in the race for the eighth and some important seeding games, and every night there is a matchup worth watching. There are a lot of games with weight and meaning.

Here are our seven must-watch NBA games of the restart.

1) July 30: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers 9 p.m. (TNT)

Opening night we get the Hallway Series — just played 2,500 miles from the Staples Center hallways. It’s a matchup of (arguably) the two best playoff performers in the NBA right now — LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard — it’s the top teams in the West, two teams sharing a city, and a budding rivalry. That said, this could look a lot like two NFL teams meeting in week 16 knowing a playoff matchup looms — nobody wants to tip their hand. If there’s a matchup Doc Rivers loves, he’s not going to wear it out in this first game of the restart. Same with Frank Vogel. Expect some lineup experimentation and not too many minutes for the stars.

That said, it’s still opening night and both teams want to get off on the right foot. The Lakers need to find rotations that work without Avery Bradley and have some work to do. These are the best teams in the West, and fans or no fans the competitive juices will be flowing.

2) July 31: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Milwaukee with Giannis Antetokounmpo has been clear-and-away the best team in the East this season, led by the best defense in the NBA. Boston has been the team on the rise this season, another top-five defense and with an emerging star in Jayson Tatum the Celtics look like the biggest threat to the Bucks Finals run. Milwaukee doesn’t have to worry about losing its seed, but it would love to make a statement — as would the Celtics.

3) Aug. 2: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. (ABC)

This will be pure fun. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. a skinny James Harden. The small-ball, bomb-from-three Rockets against the best defense in the NBA — a Bucks defense predicated on taking away the paint and forcing teams to beat them from three. Every game will matter for a Rockets team in the middle of a seeding fight in the West, but mostly this game just should be as entertaining as basketball gets.

4) Aug. 3: Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

An easy addition to the NBA’s must-watch games list. It’s more than just Zion Williamson vs. Ja Morant… although it is that too. Zion was making a push in the Rookie of the Year race despite playing just 19 games — 40 fewer than Morant — and his only hope of catching the Grizzlies point guard is to completely outplay him in the restart and get the Pelicans into the playoffs. (Even that may not be enough.)

New Orleans had the easiest schedule remaining in the NBA when the league was forced to shut down. The league replicated that as best it could heading to Orlando — New Orleans is the only team where the cumulative records of their opponents are below .500. Throw in a healthy Zion ready to shock the world and the Pelicans are the biggest threat to get into a play-in tournament with the Grizzlies. Picking up a head-to-head win would be a huge plus for the Pelicans in that chase.

5) Aug. 7: Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors, 9 p.m. (TNT)

These two teams are the second and third best teams in the East — but in what order? Toronto has been an elite defensive team this season, Pascal Siakam has taken a step forward, Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are still making veteran plays, coach Nick Nurse has been nothing short of brilliant, and the Raptors look every bit the dangerous defending champions. But do they have an answer for the emerging Tatum and an interesting, switchable Boston team on the rise? Bet the under in this game, both defenses are far better than the offenses.

6) Aug. 10: Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 9 p.m. (TNT)

Skinny Nikola Jokic is for real — but are the Nuggets for real? Denver will likely finish as the third seed in the West, but in NBA circles there is a sense this team is headed for another early playoff exit in a tight West. Denver’s defense looked good on paper early in the season, but a lot of that was just teams missing shots they usually hit (looking at the NBA’s Second Spectrum tracking data). The Nuggets have to find that defense and answer other questions, such as can Jamal Murray step up and be a No. 2 option on a dangerous playoff team? There would be no better time for Denver to make a statement before the playoffs than beating LeBron James and the top team in the West.

7) Aug. 12: Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Philadelphia is the dangerous darkhorse in the East. They are long, they can defend (sixth-best in the NBA this season), they have an elite big man in Joel Embiid who can carry the team for a stretch, they get a healthy Ben Simmons back, and they got one of the softer schedules in Orlando. If the Sixers can just find enough shooting to both score and space the floor, watch out. This will be a good test for them, going against the defending champs and a team with both talent and a real identity.

Toronto knows who it is, does Philadelphia.

NBA announces positive coronavirus tests for 16 of 302 players (5.3%)

Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon and Kings guard Buddy Hield
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The NBA is ramping up coronavirus testing as players report to their teams in advance of resuming at Disney World. Players who’ve reportedly tested positive so far.

That’s just the start, though.

NBA and NBPA release:

In tests conducted of 302 NBA players on June 23, 16 players have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Any player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until he satisfies public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and has been cleared by a physician.

That’s 5.3%.

Don’t compare this to positive test rates for states or countries. Those tests tend to be done on people who show symptoms or came into contact with someone who tested positive. That skews the rate up. NBA players are tested simply because they’re showing up to work.

COVID-19 Projections estimates 0.47% of people in the United States are currently infected. Translated to 302 players, that rate would mean just one positive test.

But NBA players have different risk profiles than the overall population. There are reasons NBA players could have lower rates of infection (high salaries that allow them to live comfortably without needing to take risk). But there are stronger reasons NBA players could have higher rates:

  • NBA players are young. Young people tend to have less-severe symptoms. So, young people tend to engage in behavior that carries greater risk of contracting coronavirus.
  • NBA players tend to live in big cities, where teams are located. Many big cities have been hit hard.
  • NBA players train strenuously. Heavy breathing can spread coronavirus. There are plenty of videos of NBA players playing crowded gyms.

A good comparison? The NHL. Last week, the NHL announced 11 players of more than 200 tested multiple times were diagnosed with coronavirus (5.2% if that were 210 players).

Expect even more NBA players to test positive. For one, full rosters for the continuing 22 teams would be 374 players. That leaves many more players to be tested. There are also nearly two weeks before players travel to Orlando. That leaves more time for players to contract coronavirus in their own communities.

It wouldn’t be surprising if 20-30 NBA players test positive for coronavirus as testing ramps up before teams reach Disney World.

These numbers already are certainly shocking people. That response is a massive PR blunder by the NBA, which should have better set expectations for the public.

But it’s not an indication the NBA’s safety plan is failing.

NBA players testing positive now shows the dangers of the larger world, where NBA players have been living and coronavirus is a very-real threat. The bubble in Disney World will be a FAR more controlled environment with tight restrictions and frequent testing. The idea is to detect coronavirus now, before players it into Disney World.

Positive tests in later phases would have different meanings.

Dr. Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist:

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the NBA’s plan:

  • Rising infection rates in Florida, which increases risk if the NBA’s bubble is infiltrated
  • A short initial quarantine when players arrive in Disney World (two negative tests spaced 24 hours apart), which risks players contracting coronavirus shortly before arriving and not having it show up on tests before they enter the larger bubble
  • Players – especially players sidelined by coronavirus – having a tight window to train after a long layoff, which increases risk of injury

But these results? This is the system working.

Report: More NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus than reported so far

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Jazz center Rudy Gobert
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At least 19 NBA players have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus:

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

I can tell you for a hundred percent fact: There are more players that have tested positive than have been reported or revealed.

To some degree, I understand players wanting to maintain their privacy – especially once they stopped interacting with masses of fans who’d benefit from being alerted.

But that’s generally not how the NBA works. Player injuries are announced, and we have repeatedly been told – as the NBA tries to resume its season – to treat coronavirus like an injury for players. The NBA’s push to draw revenue from gambling has been bolstered by promoting transparency, at least on paper. This violates that spirit.

It’s especially troubling as the league launches an ambitious plan for playing amid the pandemic. There are reasons to believe the plan is sound. There are reasons to believe the plan has shortcomings. But the NBA should be open with the underlying data.

As of mid-May, all the diagnosed players reportedly recovered in short order. Hopefully, the fact that other players have kept their diagnoses secret suggests they also recovered without complications.

Report: Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. tests positive for COVID-19

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr.
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Living in a world with coronavirus, NBA players are contracting coronavirus. The league has ramped up testing in advance of resuming at Disney World, with several players testing positive:

Add Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. to the list.

Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald:

Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. tested positive for COVID-19, a league source told the Miami Herald.

Jones, 23, has been asymptomatic and still expects to participate in the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. He was tested Tuesday, when mandatory COVID-19 testing for NBA players and staff began to be issued on a regular basis.

Hopefully, Jones recovers as quickly as he desires.

The reigning dunk-contest champion, Jones is a helpful member of Miami’s rotation. He’d be a notable loss for a team with a chance to make a deep playoff run.

At least the Heat loaded up at forward just before the trade deadline, acquiring Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill.

Jones faces far more uncertainty. Approaching unrestricted free agency this offseason, the undrafted player has a chance at his first relatively lucrative contract.