As the saying goes, the show must go on ... despite the bad timing for the 76ers.
They’ll face the Denver Nuggets at 3 p.m. Saturday after having Danny Green and rookie reserve Paul Reed cleared the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, according to reports. As a result, the Sixers (7-2) will have eight available players. The NBA required eight available players to proceed with the game.
Joel Embiid cleared protocols, but will miss the game with back tightness. Ben Simmons is also sidelined after banging up his knee. Mike Scott (bruised knee) is cleared to play, but won’t receive any minutes.
However, Tobias Harris along with reserves Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirierwere all listed are out with the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center due to contact tracing in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Sixers awaited the league’s evaluation of all seven players’ individual cases to determine if at least two of them can be cleared to play, thus sparing the postponement of the game.
Players out due to contract tracing are normally expected to be sidelined for seven days, which amounts to four games for the Sixers.
The team had one staff member test positive for COVID-19 during Friday’s testing in New York. This comes one day after shooting guard Seth Curry, who was sidelined by an ankle injury, was informed early in Thursday night’s 122-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to the NBA protocol, a player must isolate at least 10 days after the first positive test or onset of symptoms or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing. As a result, Curry will miss the next six games.
On Friday, All-NBA selection Ben Simmons, reserve centers Dwight Howard and Tom Bradley, rookie reserve guards Tyrese Maxey and Isaiah Joe and reserve guard Dakota Mathias were the only players available for the home game with the Nuggets. So the Sixers needed two more players to reach the NBA-required eight available players to proceed with the game. On Saturday morning, the cleared players headed to the arena for game-day testing.
The team was quarantined in a Manhattan hotel Friday awaiting COVID-19 test result. The expectation was that multiple players would miss time due to contact tracing for being in close proximity to Curry.
His test result is what forced the team to quarantine and contact trace in Manhattan late Thursday after the game and Friday. Member of the Sixers’ travel party took two separate tests on Friday. They then boarded separate busses around 11 p.m. to travel back to the Philadelphia area.
Terrance Ferguson (personal reasons) are Furkan Korkmaz (left groin strain), are also out.
The Sixers are fortunate the NBA rosters were expanded from 15 to 17 players at the start of the 2017-18 season. The two added spots were for two-way players, who could split their time between the NBA and the G League. Mathias and Reed are the Sixers’ two-way players.
According to the NBA protocol, a player must isolate at least 10 days after the first positive test or onset of symptoms or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing. As a result, Curry will miss the next six games. Meanwhile, players out due to contract tracing are normally expected to be sidelined for at least seven days, which amounts to four games.
But the isolation periods could be anywhere from zero to seven days for the seven questionable Sixers due the contract- tracing guidelines may determine different clearance for difference individuals.
As a result, the Sixers (7-2) will be undermanned due to the coronavirus against the Nuggets (if played), Monday at the Atlanta Hawks, in Tuesday’s and Thursday’s home series meetings against the Miami Heat, and in a road back-to-back vs. the Memphis Grizzlies Friday and Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday.
It’s not a good time to be shorthanded. Thursday’s loss kicked off a key 14-game stretch against mostly competitive teams.
Despite their record, the Nuggets (3-5) are expected to finish the season as one of the Western Conference’s elite. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have a lot to do with that.
Jokic, a second-team All-NBA center, is averaging a triple-double with 25.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.9 assists. He had a season-high 38 points in Thursday’s 124-117 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Meanwhile, Murray is averaging 22 points while shooting 38.0% on three-pointers. He scored 50 points, 42, and 50 in consecutive first-round playoff games against the Utah Jazz this past season.
Saturday will mark the Nuggets’ second straight game versus a team dealing with COVID-19. The Athletic reported that a Dallas player tested positive before the team’s flight home from Denver. Two additional Mavericks players are expected to quarantine for seven days due to contract tracing. All three players remained in Denver.
After facing the Nuggets, the Sixers will face the Hawks (4-4), who are led by All-Star point guard Trae Young. The third-year player is averaging 25.9 points and 8.4 assists. Afterward, they’ll host a Heat team (3-4) featuring Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo that made it to last season’s NBA Finals.
Butler, an All-NBA forward, is averaging 13.8 points and 2.2 steals, second in the league. The former Sixer had a season-high 26 points in Wednesday’s 107-105 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Adebayo, an All-Star power forward/center, is averaging a career-best 18.6 points to go with 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.0 block.
The Sixers should be fine on paper against the Grizzlies, who took a 2-6 record into Friday’s game against the Nets. Then they’ll face former Sixer Al Horford in their matchup with the Thunder, who were 3-4 heading into Friday’s game at the New York Knicks.
Curry, nursing his sore ankle, wore a mask while sitting on the bench in the first quarter before the team was made aware of his positive test. Once the Sixers were alerted of his test results, he immediately went to an isolation room at the Barclays Center before leaving the arena apart from his teammates.
Curry’s positive result came following a negative rapid result earlier in the day.