The bubble-less NBA is struggling to maintain their season in the face of mounting COVID-19 cases in the United States.
But it’s not just in the nation anymore, with teams travelling so often there are now many players and those around them coming up with positive tests and being forced into quarantine, leading to several games being postponed, most recently Tuesday night’s scheduled clash between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.
The issues for this particular game arose after Boston’s Sunday matchup with the Miami Heat was postponed due to the fact that the Heat were having contact-tracing issues within their organization. But the Celtics would have only been able to field a team of eight players anyway, with the other seven ruled out in line with the league’s new health and safety protocols.
The Dallas Mavericks were also unable to meet the threshold of eight players for their scheduled Monday night matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans due to COVID-related and contact-tracing issues. Though they would have had the services of star Luka Doncic—who’s currently sitting as the favorite to win this year’s MVP at very attractive +400 odds on 888sport, up from +275 just before the season started—the Mavs did have four other players test positive for the coronavirus, which left them unable to meet the minimum of eight players.
That makes it three games in three days postponed due to the pandemic, and adding the Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder matchup from December 23rd that was also pushed, that brings the total to four COVID-related postponements so far in this young NBA season.
There have been many more games affected by the coronavirus and its many new names and strains that haven’t been forced to be postponed as well. The Brooklyn Nets have had to play without their best player, Kevin Durant, for the past week while the Durantula quarantines and the Rockets had to play a game against Portland with just nine players in their season debut—which they lost in overtime.
The Sixers also had to play a game against the Denver Nuggets over the weekend with only seven healthy guys (they made an injured player active to reach the threshold), only one of which was a regular starter—and that starter was Danny Green, so it was not an ideal situation for coach Doc Rivers. Philly still managed to put up a fight, but this kind of pattern is certainly not sustainable for the NBA.
The league was supposed to meet with the NBPA on Monday to discuss modifications to the health and safety protocols. Some of the topics included more restrictive measures related to dining out and wearing masks and taking a closer look at pre and postgame socializing and practice lengths, according to ESPN’s sources.
The NBA said on Sunday that they anticipated issues, but that they still have no plans to pause the season because of the current problems several teams are experiencing. Surely they expected some postponements, but four this early in the year is not a very encouraging sign. Could another NBA bubble be in store?