Doc Rivers was asked if he’s concerned about how COVID-19 cases are rising in the NBA.
“I’m worried,” the 76ers coach said before Wednesday’s home game with the Miami Heat. “I’m just worried in general. I see football and hockey and us – there’s just a lot of it right now. There’s a lot of it nationwide, outside of sports as well. It clearly is a concern, for sure.”
The Sixers were unable to avoid the NBA’s recent wave of players being sidelined by COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Reserve power forward Georges Niang was unavailable for the Miami game after being placed in the protocols Wednesday. Niang is vaccinated. A vaccinated player who tests positive for COVID can typically return after a 10-day quarantine or following two negative tests 24 hours apart.
The Chicago Bulls postponed two games Monday after COVID-19 sidelined 10 players.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets placed seven players in protocols, including James Harden, and the Milwaukee Bucks did the same with Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Los Angeles Lakers canceled practice after Talen Horton-Tucker tested positive for coronavirus, and Dwight Howard and Malik Monk also entered the protocols.
On Wednesday, Sacramento interim coach Alvin Gentry tested positive and was ruled out for the Kings’ game against Washington.
Rivers asked what types of steps precautionary steps the NBA could take.
“I don’t know, man,” he said. “I really don’t. I got a feeling we may go back to some of the stuff [daily testing and restrictions] we did last year, which was clearly no fun. But we got through the season, so I guess if that’s what we have to do, we have to do it.”
The NFL’s Washington team has 17 players on COVID-19 list. The NHL’s Calgary Flames have 16 players on their list and are in the midst of postponing at least four games.
Last month, the Sixers had four players — Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Isaiah Joe — miss a combined 27 games after they tested positive.
Rivers said the team has been successful in getting players to take booster shots.
“But nationwide, we have to get the vaccination first,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s clear that it’s going to keep spreading until we do that. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Niang, signed as a free agent from the Utah Jazz in the offseason, is averaging career-highs of 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 23.6 minutes. He has started in five of the 28 games he has played.
Furkan Korkmaz (non-COVID illness) also missed Wednesday’s game.
The Heat had six players ruled out: Jimmy Butler (tailbone contusion), Bam Adebayo (thumb injury), Caleb Martin (health and safety protocols), Markieff Morris (neck whiplash), Victor Oladipo (right knee recovery) and Tyler Herro (right quad contusion).
Making a difference
The Sixers hosted 25 youths from the Philadelphia area who have been adversely affected by criminal justice at Wednesday’s game through the REFORM Alliance.
“Every kid that was here today has a mom or dad that has been in prison or is currently in prison for a technical violation. That means they didn’t commit a crime,” said Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin, who along with Philly rapper Meek Mill launched the criminal justice initiative that seeks to reform probation and parole laws. “I didn’t know if was possible until I went through it with Meek. I thought people that went to jail went there because they committed a crime. I didn’t know that 25% of people that go to prison or jail each year don’t commit crimes.”
REFORM Alliance was inspired by Mill’s own experience when he was sentenced to 2-to-4 years in prison in November 2017 for technically violating his probation, and served five months before being released.
So on Wednesday, Rubin, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and the team provided a day to remember for the youth.
At 2:30 p.m., they played in a basketball game with Mill and rapper Lil Baby on the Wells Fargo Center floor, with Sixers general manager Elton Brand and Sixers legend World B. Free as the coaches. They also participated in a pregame Q & A with Rivers. There was even a question from a youngster asking Rivers why disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons was still on the team.
“Which one of the press guys asked you to ask that question?” Rivers said jokingly. “He has a contract, and he’s with us. And we still consider him with us.”
The children also were treated to dinner and the Sixers-Heat game.