The NBA called off two more games because of COVID-related and contact tracing issues on Monday, and a person with knowledge of the situation said the Miami Heat were preparing to be without “at least five” players for the next several days because of possible exposure to the coronavirus.
Monday’s game in Dallas between the Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed by the league, as well as Tuesday’s matchup in Chicago between the Bulls and the Boston Celtics. The league’s general managers were meeting Monday to discuss the league’s current virus situation, with involvement from the National Basketball Players Association. The NBA’s board of governors will meet Tuesday on the topic.
The latest postponements come one day after Miami’s game in Boston was called off because of contact-tracing issues within the Heat. The Celtics would have had only eight available players for the game — after seven were ruled out in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols for playing amid the ongoing pandemic.
Miami scheduled a flight from Boston to Philadelphia on Monday night in advance of a game there Tuesday, but was preparing to leave some players behind because of the tracing results, said a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those details were not publicly released. The identities of those players was not revealed, and it is unclear if other members of the Heat travel party were affected.
“Definitely been a unique start to the year,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said Monday in an appearance on Reddit. “Been different challenges with all the protocols and new norms. I think the general sentiment is that everyone wants to play but also everyone wants to be safe first.”
Dallas did not have enough players cleared to play Monday because the contact-tracing process was still ongoing, said a person with knowledge of that situation. The person spoke with AP on condition of anonymity because it had not been disclosed publicly by the league or the team.
“Damn..” Pelicans guard Josh Hart tweeted.
Contact tracing within the NBA has gotten much more aggressive in recent days, with a new requirement that everyone within the travel parties wear an electronic device that tracks their proximity to one another.
The Mavericks-Pelicans game and Bulls-Celtics game increase the total games postponed this season due to virus-related matters to four. Philadelphia played at home against Denver on Saturday with seven players — eight were available, but only seven took the floor — because of a combination of virus issues and injuries. The NBA also fined the 76ers $25,000 on Monday for not properly disclosing ahead of time that Ben Simmons would miss that game with an injury.
“The league is doing a very good job trying to adjust to the situation,” 76ers guard Isaiah Joe said. “As long as they’re trying, I feel like that’s what’s best for the players. After a while we’ll get this situation controlled and be up and running like normally.”
There were four Dallas players on the COVID-19 protocol list as of Sunday night, the newest addition then being Maxi Kleber. Starters Josh Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith and backup Jalen Brunson had already been ruled out; those three stayed behind in Denver after a win over the Nuggets on Thursday and missed Saturday’s victory at home against Orlando.
The other game, besides Sunday’s Boston-Miami matchup, to have been postponed was the Dec. 23 game between Oklahoma City and Houston. The NBA said Sunday night that the league anticipated there would be issues and has no plans to pause the season because of the current issues some teams are facing.
“It is an awful world right now,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said Monday. “We’re all facing this, whether you’re an NBA team player, organization, front office or you’re somebody that doesn’t work in the industry. It’s an awful world, a scary world. we’re losing lives every single day in big numbers. So, I think the league’s doing the best we can. I think we’re trying our best to get through the season, but I think we have to be ready for everything and I think we’re all concerned.”
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press