With the rosters being skinny, the NBA has no plans to pause the season
With coronavirus infected players, contact tracing quarantines, and minor injuries being thin roster of available players, the NBA has no plans to pause the season, a league spokesman told ESPN.
“We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and have planned the schedule accordingly,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN in a statement. “There are no plans to end the season and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols.”
Some team managers have raised concerns privately during the turbulent days, but Commissioner Adam Silver has remained committed to enforcing games with at least eight available players per team and trying to complete the schedule as much as possible before full access to is possible Vaccinations that could bring the league and the country back to normal.
“They tell us it will get better later in the season, but I just hope this doesn’t break the league in the next few weeks,” a general manager told ESPN.
While the NBA had a significantly lower percentage of positive tests than national numbers for a pandemic killing 4,000 Americans every day, the league appears to be in its most productive week of positive tests among players right now.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics were almost unable to meet the requirements to play with eight available players this weekend due to quarantine due to positive testing and contact tracing. and the Miami Heat, which was left with seven eligible players on Sunday, had postponed their game with Boston.
As difficult as the season has been, the league has still avoided a single widespread breakout within a team and has only postponed two games so far. The NBA created an accelerated schedule with the expectation of postponements and the flexibility to put games together.
Even so, the teams are learning what the NFL has done this season: the loss of key personnel to positive testing and contact tracing quarantines has a huge impact on results, and the franchises are still learning to grapple with it.
Since the league released positive tests among players on a weekly basis, including the latest data on Jan. 7, 63 cases of approximately 550 players have been confirmed. League sources point to at least seven new cases in the past week – as well as more than 20 players who lost up to 63 active days to contact contact tracing logs during that period.
This puts a strain on the rosters and it could get worse before it gets better for the teams.
But the league sees indications of an even greater risk of infection if the league closes. That’s another reason health and medical experts advising the NBA aren’t pushing for an interruption right now, sources told ESPN. When the players were tested on their return to team training camps, the NBA found spikes in positive tests – including 48 cases on December 2nd.
With thousands dying every day and millions more infected and experiencing severe personal and financial difficulties, the NBA broadly understands that it has an obligation to find some level of context within its own daily frustrations.
Executives and coaches are frustrated that the quality of the game and preparation has suffered and the competitive balance is being affected. Teams battle for ways to build camaraderie and chemistry with staff and players constantly separated, and rituals that were once as simple as shootarounds have become pointless when players sometimes have to wait an hour to 90 minutes for test results to be returned, before they are let inside the facility.
In addition, companies are concerned about how contact tracing logs that isolate players for several days can affect the risk of conditioning and injury when they return to teams.
“We have to throw the players on the field and get them back in shape,” said a GM on Sunday. “It leads to more injuries and more lost time.”
Prior to the season, the NBA had discussed expanding rosters to 19, including the ability to keep four two-way contract players on rosters, but that change was not carried over.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.