Big chunks of ESPN’s coverage team are out for at least Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which start Thursday evening in San Francisco.
Analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who called Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals while clearly not sounding like himself, has COVID and is out for Thursday night’s Warriors-Celtics matchup. An ESPN spokesperson said that Van Gundy hopes to return for Game 2, which is Sunday night.
The news that Van Gundy and Adrian Wojnarowski are out with COVID was first reported by the New York Post. ESPN confirmed to SFGATE that the Post report was accurate.
Van Gundy’s usual play-by-play partner, Mike Breen, missed Game 7 of Celtics-Heat with his own COVID case, and was still winding through company protocols as of Thursday morning. Mark Jones replaced Breen for that game and would replace him again Thursday night, if necessary.
Former Dubs head coach Mark Jackson is the third man in the booth and will form a duo with either Jones or Breen while Van Gundy is out.
Woj, the veteran scoophound, is not in San Francisco, but “expects to be in Boston” when the series shifts there next week, ESPN said.
Though case rates have exploded in the Bay Area in recent weeks, it’s unlikely that the virus will keep players off the court. Vaccinated players are only tested by their request. Every player on the Warriors is vaccinated, and it appears that at least the vast majority of Celtics players are as well.
Story by Dennis Young, SFGate, San Francisco