NBA scrambles to combat COVID-19 implications

Cameron Crocheron | Staff Writer

Image via Associated Press

NBA players and staff have an ongoing concern over COVID-19 protocols due to the postponement of 17 games to control the increase of COVID-19 cases and close contact tracing.

“We’ve seen it in the NFL, the NBA and college sports,”  Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone told ESPN. “These are real protocols, and they’re in place for a reason, and hopefully we can learn from it.

“COVID is real. The NBA has consulted with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the best doctors in the country to make sure we are following those protocols and are disciplined.” 

The NBA is taking additional steps needed to enforce stricter guidelines to limit contact among opposing players before games. League officials are positioning team security on the court before and after games to dissuade violations, including hugging and handshakes, according to ESPN.

Although the number of new cases around the league has decreased compared to previous weeks, the NBA is still active in ruling players out for games and postponing games as well.

“There’s no shame with this particular virus,”  Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams told ESPN. “It’s unfortunate that teams are having a few guys here and there popping up, whether they got the virus or contact tracing limiting their potential to play. That’s a tough deal for any team.”

Contact tracing and contractions of the virus have affected some of the NBA’s top players such as Kevin Durant, Michael Porter Jr. and Karl-Anthony Towns, and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was sidelined for a couple of games after being exposed to COVID-19, ESPN reported. 

Throughout the season, teams have had to sit six or more players before upcoming games due to contact tracing. This left teams shorthanded and unable to meet the league’s eight available players requirement.

“Expand the rosters, sign players that are in a pool,” NBA free-agent guard Jamal Crawford said via Twitter. “G- League, vets, whatever, so there are available bodies, games can continue.”

The expansion of team rosters would limit the possibility of them being short-handed in case of an outbreak among players and games would continue as scheduled. G-league players and current free agents such as Crawford would be given opportunities to play at the NBA level.

NBA general managers convened virtually in early January to discuss the possibility of expanding rosters from the current 17 available players with some teams in favor and some not, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. 

While there may not be a basis for criteria that may force the NBA to suspend the season, the league continues to make protocol enhancements. The NBA is expected to play a 72-game season, but due to yet another unprecedented season, there are concerns about whether that will be possible.

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