Coronavirus: NBA postpones another game, announces 11 new players test positive for Covid

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Memphis’ National Basketball Association game at the Portland Trail Blazers scheduled for Wednesday (Jan 20) has been postponed with the Grizzles depleted by coronavirus contact tracing, the league said.

The 16th such postponement of the season came on the day the league announced that of 502 players tested for Covid-19 since Jan 13, 11 new players had returned a confirmed positive test.

The league’s coronavirus protocols require anyone who tests positive, or who is identified as coming in close contact with an infected person, must isolate or quarantine.

Contact tracing left the Grizzlies without the league-required eight players available for their scheduled game at Portland.

The Grizzlies had announced on Sunday that Jonas Valanciunas was sidelined after entering the league’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols. He missed Memphis’ victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Wednesday’s game between the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets had already been postponed, the Wizards missing a fifth straight game in an eight-day span as they remained unable to put eight players in uniform.

Of the 16 games postponed so far since the NBA season was launched on Dec 22, 15 have been called off since Jan 10.

The league triumphantly concluded its pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 campaign in a quarantine bubble in Orlando but this season, teams are hosting games in their home arenas as the United States continues to grapple with Covid-19.

ESPN reported on Wednesday that the league had advised teams it would station security officers near midcourt to remind players they should not hug or exchange handshakes, or engage in lengthy conversations with opposing players before or after games.

The league had already beefed up some protocols, such as requiring players to wear masks whenever they return to the bench area during games.

Players to promote vaccine use?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league would not try to jump the queue to have players vaccinated before priority groups including health care workers, the elderly and those with medical conditions.

However, he said on Tuesday that the league has now discussed having players, the majority of whom are African-American, receiving the vaccine as a way of promoting its use in the Black community.

“There have been discussions,” Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico.

“In the African-American community, there’s been enormously disparate impact from Covid … but now, somewhat perversely, there’s been enormous resistance (to vaccinations) in the African-American community for understandable historical reasons. … If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated.”

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