ATLANTA — The NBA’s non-bubble pandemic season is starting to hit a little snag.
The NBA postponed Monday night’s New Orleans-Dallas contest and Tuesday’s Boston-Chicago game in accordance with its COVID-19 health and safety protocol. This comes after the Celtics’ scheduled home game Sunday against Miami was postponed. Last month, the scheduled season opener between Houston and Oklahoma City also was postponed.
On Monday, the Heat (4-4) were without eight players due to the protocol when the team flew to Philadelphia for their scheduled two-game series against the 76ers, Tuesday and Thursday nights. That came one day after Miami guard Avery Bradley was placed in the NBA protocol, which triggered the league’s contact-tracing procedures. As a result, former Sixer Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Mo Harkless, Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Nunn, and KZ Okpala have all joined him in the protocol.
While the Sixers haven’t had any postponements, they know firsthand about the protocols. They had just seven players for Saturday’s 115-102 home loss to the Denver Nuggets. They had nine available for Monday night’s game at Atlanta.
As of Sunday, 29 players league-wide were subject to the health and safety protocol, according to ESPN. The number Monday was at least 36 with the seven additional Heat players. The Sixers have five players on the list. Seth Curry has tested positive. Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Vincent Poirier also must adhere to the protocols after contact tracing. They sat at the same table as Curry during a team meeting Thursday.
But after Monday’s game, the shorthanded Sixers will entertain the shorthanded Heat in a two-game series on Tuesday and Thursday.
Sixers rookie Isaiah Joe wasn’t questioning why the league is playing games amid what’s going on as he talked about how players are constantly being monitored and tested twice a day.
“I think it’s just one of those things, over time it is going to come together,” said the previously seldom-used guard, who started and played nearly 45 minutes on Saturday due to the Sixers’ player shortage.
“The league is doing a very good job. They adjust to the situation. So as long as they’re trying, I feel like that’s the best for the players.”
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are meeting Monday to discuss modifying the league’s protocols.
Joe said he feels safe on the court. The shooting guard added that he trusts the system of constantly testing the players. He also trusts that the other teams are doing things the right way.
However, he’s been keeping up to date with the recent number of players being sidelined due to COVID-related protocols and game postponements.
“Regardless of our situation, we still go about our day the same way,” Joe said. “We still go about our routines, our shootaround, and prepare for these games like we prepared for the last game.
“Hopefully, this COVID situation gets under control. But we are just going to continue to do what we do and trust the medical staff and all the testing.”
Things are not coming along as smoothly as they did at last summer’s NBA restart. In early July, the Sixers were among 22 of the league’s 30 teams that arrived at Walt Disney World in Kissimmee, Fla., to complete the season in a bubble. The bubble concluded on Oct. 11 with the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Heat in the Finals.
Instead of staying in a bubble, teams are playing games in home arenas. That enables players to be at home with family members and friends. They can order and eat food from whichever restaurants are still open and serving. So there’s that freedom they didn’t have inside the bubble, but it has also led to violations of the health and safety protocols.