Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Nothing is official, but there’s a strong likelihood that the Celtics’ Wednesday game against the Orlando Magic at TD Garden will be their third straight game postponed.
When Sunday night’s game against the Heat was called off, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported it was because Miami didn’t have enough players available. The Celtics were at the league minimum of eight.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski Tuesday’s game between Boston and Chicago was postponed because the Celtics didn’t have enough players meaning at least one player who was available Sunday was no longer available Monday. It’s also possible someone suffered an injury that wasn’t related to NBA Health and Safety protocols, which is the league’s designation for anything COVID-19 related. Privacy concerns prevent the league or teams from further elaboration.
I would love to know how the NBA plans on squeezing in these postponed games. I mean, let’s be honest here. They’re just kicking the can down the street, trying to put off the unavoidable moment when they have to inform their broadcast partners that, no, these ‘postponed’ games won’t be played because, frankly, there isn’t enough time.
Now, there could be enough time if the league were willing to (1) budge on the reversion to the July 1-June 30 contract year, and (2) schedule playoff games head-to-head against the Olympics. But for right now, the powers that be seem content to delude themselves with the fiction that a schedule this compressed somehow has room for inserting multiple games somewhere down the line.
We’re probably also seeing the effects of playing outside a bubble. Over at the Athletic, Jared Weiss and Tim Cato have more on that subject:
On Saturday morning, hours after playing 35 minutes against the Washington Wizards, Jayson Tatum tested positive for COVID-19. The Boston Celtics star was immediately sent into quarantine in accordance with the NBA’s health and safety protocols, a 153-page document containing the league’s guidelines for playing basketball in a pandemic. The protocols mandated contact tracing, a seven-step process required after a positive test to identify other individuals Tatum could have exposed if contagious prior to receiving his results.
In this instance, contact tracing identified Wizards’ star Bradley Beal as having high-risk exposure to Tatum. Beal had shared the court with Tatum off and on for nearly two hours, guarding him occasionally and even fouling him once. What was identified as high risk, however, was a maskless post-game conversation Beal held with Tatum that ended with a hug. Beal was held out from his team’s game the following evening. Beal’s teammates, not identified by contact tracing, played without him.
I watched my nephew’s high school jazz and concert band perform last night. They’re a pretty fantastic outfit–except when you have to watch them through a crappy webcam which is also functioning as the sole microphone for a large brass, woodwind and percussion ensemble.
Anyway, did you know that they have a special mask for flautists? It’s got a hole in it that you slide the flute through. And the bells of all the wind instruments were covered with these red socks, and were all the instruments played through masks. There was also considerable distance (not always six feet, though) between performers.
Now I’m not sure how effective all that is at keeping COVID out of the air, but it is indicative of the lengths that are being taken in some circles to prevent the kind of spread that comes from close contact with an infected individual.
Frankly, there’s no way for the league to do something similar with players. You can’t play basketball wearing an effective face mask. Either the mask won’t do its job properly, or you’re going to be basically suffocating yourself slowly.
So why doesn’t the league consider, y’know, face guarding someone in basketball to be ‘close contact’?
Turns out that it’s either through willful stupidity, the sort of self-delusion that tells you it’s okay to do something you really want to do based on flimsy reasoning, or because the league brought a lawyer’s mindset to CDC recommendations, mistaking them for regulations: ‘If we define “close contact” according to CDC documents, that’s good enough.’
The CDC defines close contact as “15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less [over a 24-hour period]”, and the NBA’s number crunchers have used tracking data to determine that players spend, on average, only about five or six minutes within six feet of another player during a typical game.
So, that’s pretty awesome, eh? It doesn’t matter that these guys are sweating, coughing, yelling, spitting, breathing deeper, breathing faster, breathing through their mouth, not their nose*, and so on. Because the CDC sez ’15 minutes of cumulative exposure’, and these guys aren’t getting more than five or six minutes!!!
Some years back, the NHL had community spread of mumps among multiple teams due to close contact during games. So it takes a special breed of incompetence to decide that there’s a low risk for transmission during a contact sport in a nice warm humid arena.
Only a fool can look at the fact that COVID has gotten a foothold in the NBA and not conclude that contact spreading of the disease is going to continue.
Playing a full season in a bubble was never going to happen. Teams in the G-League were reportedly asked to each kick in $500,000 to play a 12 game schedule in a bubble. Now the league is not used to games costing money to put on. If your typical NBA game was a money-losing proposition, the whole damn league would be out of business, because that’s what it is—a business.
The small ‘bubble’ that the NBA put on in Orlando last year was probably either revenue neutral or close to it, and that was probably because most of the games were playoffs, which come with bigger TV revenue, regardless of paying fans and their revenue.
So is the league going to change anything?
Chris Mannix says no:
“Well there’s certainly frustration on the league’s part but it’s expected frustration,” Mannix said. “They anticipated having these types of problems, especially in the month of January when you’re getting the full brunt of the post-holiday season and everything that comes along with it. The natural question is, will there be any kind of stoppage? Will the NBA consider a bubble? And at this point, I’m told that that’s a firm no. That the NBA is going to continue to push on.
“Remember, there’s only about four or five teams in the league that are dealing with an outbreak. There’s more than half the league that hasn’t really dealt with much of anything, if at all, when it comes to COVID issues. So until this thing becomes more prevalent across the league, the NBA I believe is going to continue to push through. But I can tell you that among the teams that are being impacted by this, the chorus is getting louder for some kind of stoppage be it a week or 10 days to try to get this pandemic within the league under control.”
I like Chris Mannix—really, I do—but saying that the league doesn’t have a problem because ‘only four or five teams are dealing with an outbreak’ is just insane. That’s like one squirrel looking at another and saying, “we don’t really have a problem. Our tree isn’t on fire, it’s just the tree next to us.”
Over at the Globe, Gary Washburn backs up Mannix when it comes to major changes to the schedule, but says the league may add more restrictions to players:
But the league is expected to intensify its COVID-19 rules for players over the next few days, with suggestions such as eliminating morning shootarounds — which would eliminate a team trip to arenas — and requiring mask-wearing on the bench by players who are not playing.
And this sounds exactly like the kind of window-dressing we should expect from a league that gives us the “L2M” report, but does nothing useful to improve officiating. It’s a ‘see, we’re doing something!!!’ action that completely avoids addressing the real problem.
If you’re afraid guys are going to spread the disease at a shootaround, then you really shouldn’t allow them to ever be around each other without masks on. And the real issue here is not the illness spreading from one player to another on the same team, it’s the risk of COVID being passed from one team to another. Canceling shootarounds and requiring bench players to mask up does almost nothing to prevent this.
*Yes, nose vs. mouth makes a difference. Ever sleep with your mouth open? You wake up with a dry throat in desperate need of a glass of water. That’s because your nose filters out a fair bit of moisture as you exhale and the virus is best transmitted in little droplets of water–and other, more disgusting, liquids.
Page 2: Where Jayson Tatum is the Eastern Conference player of the week!
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, per a release from the team.
Tatum averaged 33 points per game in three victories over the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat and Washington Wizards, shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 52 percent from deep. He dropped 40 points against the Raptors — a season-high and the third 40-point game of his career.
Yay! Things aren’t as bad as they seem!!