NBA tries to get back to normal

The Associated Press

The Boston Celtics expect their unplanned weeklong hiatus because of coronavirus-related issues to end tonight, when they’re scheduled to play host to the Orlando Magic.

The Phoenix Suns, however, have a bit more time off.

The Celtics will be without at least three players Friday, including All-Star forward Jayson Tatum, because of the league’s health and safety protocols. But four others are apparently on the cusp of satisfying their league-mandated time away from the team and are listed as questionable for Friday.

Meanwhile, the Indiana at Phoenix game scheduled for Saturday has been called off — the ninth such postponement since the week began. The Suns will not have enough players eligible to play, largely because of contact tracing issues, the NBA said.

Boston had three games that would have been played between Sunday and Wednesday postponed because some players were positive and others were ruled out because contact tracing showed that they could have been exposed to the virus.

Leaguewide, 10 games this season have now been postponed and the NBA was reviewing if more games — including a a Sunday game in Washington — would have to be pushed back. The Suns and Wizards were both scheduled to play Friday; those games were postponed because of contact-tracing issues.

“If you look at how our league is going, what’s happening in our country, I don’t think you can be surprised by anything,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

More tests are likely coming to the NBA, which revealed Wednesday that 16 players tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.

League officials, in a memo obtained by The Associated Press, have told teams that they are deciding whether to have additional game-day testing for players and referees. Teams in all 28 NBA cities have been told to investigate if there is a local lab that can process PCR tests relatively quickly; the extra tests would be conducted on game-day mornings and turn in results no later than one hour before tip-off.

The league regimen already includes daily PCR tests for players and coaches, and rapid tests on game days. The NBA told teams it was possible that a decision could be made on the extra layer of testing by the weekend.

ESPN first reported the contents of the league’s memo.

Boston’s weeklong hiatus, if it ends Friday as planned, would be the longest in the NBA so far this season. If Thursday’s schedule of games is completed with no additional postponements, five teams — Portland, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Denver and Indiana — would have played four games since the Celtics last played one.

“We’re like everyone else,” Stevens said. “We appreciate the opportunity to gather. We appreciate the opportunity to be together. We appreciate the opportunity to play the game we love and when it’s taken away for a week or four months that’s hard. And the rest of the world’s dealing with that in every which way, so for us to complain about it … would be insensitive to everything else that’s going on in the world.”


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