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NBA Receives Criticism as Sixers Field 7 Players Due to COVID, Injuries

Philadelphia is barely able to dress a team, but they’re playing anyway.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Denver Nuggets today with just seven healthy players. Technically that’s one below the minimum required to participate in an NBA game, but the blurry lines around the definition of “injury”, plus ongoing COVID-19 issues, are creating a grey area in which the team would prefer not to play but the league is insisting they do.

Sixers guard Seth Curry tested positive for COVID on Thursday. The result came during the first quarter of their game with the Brooklyn Nets. Curry was isolated immediately, but teammates Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Vincent Poirierwere now fall under the contact-tracing protocols of the league’s health and safety guidelines, making them ineligible for the Denver game.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, other Philadelphia players have tested negative, but stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were already listed as out for the Denver contest due to injury. Combined with other injuries and absences, this leaves Philadelphia eight players, the minimum required. But technically forward Mike Scott was returning from injury and not supposed to receive minutes in this game. The Sixers will have to suit him up, but not play him, to make the threshold.

Philadelphia Head Coach Doc Rivers reportedly favors rescheduling the game, but the league mandates that any team meeting minimum requirements must play.

A public-relations tug ‘o war has ensued, with media members weigh in on various sides.

Either way, it looks as if the tip will happen on schedule, at 5:00PM Eastern, 2:00PM Pacific.

As soon as the NBA stepped outside of a secured bubble, these issues were on the horizon. Franchises can lose half their roster at a moment’s notice, operating under protocols. Safety is the primary concern for all involved, but that truism waffles under the reality of asymptomatic contagion and the league’s desire to play scheduled games. The ethical ramifications of the process are up to debate, but it seems pretty clear that NBA fans should get used to a fluid definition of “roster” and “games” in 2021.