It NBAIn response to increasing coronavirus levels, Sunday saw five of nine games delayed. This pushed the season’s total to seven contests.

Trois Sunday games, including one at Cleveland and Atlanta, Denver at Brooklyn (and New Orleans) were cancelled. Also shelved were Orlando’s game at Toronto on Monday and Washington’s game at Brooklyn on Tuesday.

The postponements came on the same day that Atlanta announced star guard Trae Young entered the league’s health and safety protocols and the Los Angeles Lakers said coach Frank Vogel also was added to the list.

Leaguewide, through Sunday afternoon, there were at least 68 players who have been ruled out to play — or in the case of the postponed games, would have been ruled out — because they are in the protocols. The number of players who are unable to play has skyrocketed in the last few days. This is just one example of how many leagues around the world deal with this rapidly increasing problem.

At Scotiabank Arena, Toronto on Saturday, the Golden State Warriors take on Toronto Raptors
Cole Burston via Getty Images

Due to the expected surge of holiday travellers and other gatherings, U.S. officials expect an epidemic of new infections in the vaccine recipients. According to the NBA, 97% of all players have been vaccinated. As of last week, around 60% of those who had received booster shots were fully vaccinated. We don’t know if there are any positives involving players not eligible to have booster shots, or those who choose not to.

Uncertain is also how many NBA cases involved asymptomatic athletes. NFL protocols have been revised to ensure that players who are not vaccinated or show symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested. There are five NHL teams that were shut down for Christmas due to outbreaks. Many college games have also been cancelled in the last few days.

“It is what it is. Just trying to stay safe as possible and that’s all you can do,” Lakers guard Russell Westbrook said of the NBA’s rising numbers. Westbrook briefly attended the protocol late last week before returning three positive coronavirus test results and being allowed to resume play.

Both the league and National Basketball Players Association are discussing a plan where teams with a desperate need for players could sign 10-day reinforcement contracts. However, these deals would not impact salary caps or luxury tax numbers. Although the deal is not finalized yet, talks continue.

According to the Cavaliers, five Cavaliers players entered the protocol on Sunday. All five — center Jarrett Allen, forwards Lamar Stevens and Dylan Windler and guards Denzel Valentine and RJ Nembhard — tested positive for COVID-19, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not release that specific detail.

These men joined Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro, both of whom were previously part of the protocol.

Vogel won’t be on the bench when his Lakers play Sunday at Chicago. David Fizdale will coach in Vogel’s place, the Lakers said. After two postponed games last week, the Bulls will be back on the court.

Chicago still doesn’t have all of its players back yet, either. Zach LaVine is an Olympic gold medalist and was listed as still absent Sunday.

Through Saturday’s games, those were the only games the NBA had pushed back during this outbreak. The league made a significant increase in postponements on Sunday due to teams not being able to field enough players.

Brooklyn is home to 10 players plus some staff.

“It’s just crazy,” Nets forward Blake Griffin said.

Brooklyn’s list of players in protocols includes Kevin Durant, James Harden and — even though he’s still not yet able to play — Kyrie Irving, who has sat out all season for not complying with New York City’s vaccine mandate. The team reversed course Friday and said Irving would be welcomed back “for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate,” knowing he’d still miss two games at the Knicks and trips to Toronto and Golden State.

The Nets had eight available players for Saturday night’s game against Orlando. The Magic had nine, including four players — Aleem Ford, Hassani Gravett, B.J. Johnson and Admiral Schofield — who were signed late last week to hardship contracts because of virus issues and injuries decimating Orlando’s roster.

Here’s how necessary they were: Magic coach Jamahl Mosley had all four on the court together in two separate stretches of Orlando’s win.


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