As coronavirus-infected players, contact tracing quarantines and ancillary injuries thin rosters of available players, the NBA has no plans to pause the season, the league spokesman, Mike Bass, has revealed.
“We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly. There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols,” Bass stated in a statement.
Some team executives have privately raised concerns in the turbulent past several days, but commissioner Adam Silver has remained committed to pushing through games with a minimum of eight available players per team and trying to complete as much of the schedule as possible prior to wide scale access to vaccinations that could start to bring normalcy back to the league and country.
“They tell us it’ll be better later in the season, but I just hope this doesn’t break the league in the next few weeks,” one general manager told ESPN.
While the NBA has had a significantly lower percentage of positive tests than the national numbers of a pandemic that’s killing 4,000 Americans a day, the league appears to be currently amid its most prolific week of positive tests among players.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics were nearly unable to meet the requirements of playing with eight available players this weekend because of players quarantined due to positive tests and contact tracing; and the Miami Heat, left with seven eligible players on Sunday, had its game with Boston postponed.
As difficult as the season has been, the league has still avoided a single widespread outbreak within a team and had only two games postponed thus far. The NBA built a shortened schedule with the expectation of postponements and the flexibility to make up games.
Nevertheless, teams are learning what the NFL did this season: The loss of key personnel to positive tests and contact tracing quarantines severely impact results, and franchises are still learning to grapple with it.
Since the league started releasing weekly numbers of positive tests among players, including its most recent data on January 7, there have been 63 confirmed cases out of roughly 550 players. League sources point to a minimum of seven new cases in the past week as well as more than 20 players losing as many as 63 active days of time to contact tracing protocols in this period.
That’s taking a toll on rosters, and it could get worse before it gets better for teams.