The uptick in COVID-19 cases around the NBA has the league reportedly discussing modifications to its health and safety protocols with the National Basketball Players Association. The Omicron variant is here, and this week saw the first confirmed case of it within the NBA’s player pool, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
With coach Alvin Gentry and multiple players in protocols, the Sacramento Kings canceled the practice they’d scheduled Thursday and temporarily closed their practice facility, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Kings reportedly fear that more players will test positive and that Friday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies could be in jeopardy.
If there is an outbreak, Sacramento could find itself in the same position that the Chicago Bulls have been in. The NBA postponed Chicago’s games against the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors (originally scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday), and, since Dec. 1, 10 of its players have entered health and safety protocols, as have broadcasters Stacey King and Bill Wennington. King tweeted Wednesday that he had tested negative on Tuesday night, but still had a high temperature and felt weak.
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Several Bulls may be eligible to return on Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Lakers, who will have a makeshift roster themselves. Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley joined three teammates in health and safety protocols on Thursday, and the Lakers signed Isaiah Thomas using a hardship exception.
Aside from those two Chicago games, there have not yet been other postponements. The Brooklyn Nets, however, had only eight active players — the league-mandated minimum for a game to be played — when they hosted the Raptors on Tuesday. Seven Nets players are in the protocols, and Brooklyn announced Thursday that it has signed Langston Galloway to a 10-day contract, using a hardship exception. (The shorthanded Bulls used hardship exceptions to sign Alfonzo McKinnie and Stanley Johnson, the latter of whom entered health and safety protocols before his first game.)
Five Charlotte Hornets players were recently in health and safety protocols, but all have since been cleared.
Players who are not fully vaccinated must enter health and safety protocols if they are found to be a close contact of a person who has tested positive. As of Friday, players who have not received a booster shot will be subject to tighter restrictions, including game-day testing.
If any player tests positive for COVID-19, he must immediately isolate until 10 days have passed from that test or the onset of symptoms, or until he tests negative on two PCR tests 24 hours apart.
Also in health and safety protocols: Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle and Toronto president Masai Ujiri. The Nets have coaches and front-office members in protocols, Steve Nash said Tuesday, and the Lakers have staffers in protocols, too.
The Raptors announced Wednesday that they will play home games at 50 percent capacity, starting Saturday against the Golden State Warriors. On Thursday their G League team, Raptors 905, followed suit.
Players who recently cleared health and safety protocols include LaMelo Ball of the Hornets, Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies, Kyle Kuzma of the Washington Wizards, Josh Richardson of the Boston Celtics, Justin Holiday of the Indiana Pacers and Austin Rivers of the Denver Nuggets.
Here is a team-by-team list of players in health and safety protocols, along with the date they entered:
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
Ja Morant (Dec. 8; out indefinitely with knee sprain)
Precious Achiuwa (out since Dec. 12, not because of NBA health and safety protocols but because, under Toronto Public Health guidelines, he must isolate as a close contact of someone who tested positive; could return Saturday vs. Warriors)