Several teams around the NBA are facing COVID-19 outbreaks among players and staff, and the league is in discussions with the player’s association regarding increased testing in response. The Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, and Brooklyn Nets have all been impacted by recent outbreaks. Sacramento Kings head coach Alvin Gentry entered protocols after a positive test, and Shams Charania of the Athletic reported that the outbreak has spread among other players and staff, including “some symptomatic cases.”
The increased testing, which includes vaccinated players, was also used during Thanksgiving, Baxter Holmes of ESPN said, and will likely be used during the upcoming holidays. However, conversations between the league and the player’s association as to the exact protocols are ongoing.
The league did not start the season by testing all players due to concerns about buy-in from players.
Even though 97% of players are vaccinated, some team executives and team health officials expressed concern before the season that the NBA wouldn’t enter the season testing all vaccinated players in a break from policies used the previous season. Under such a circumstance, keeping track of the virus amid potential breakthrough cases, these team officials said, would prove challenging. But it was also understood around the league that daily testing in a largely vaccinated league likely wouldn’t receive enough buy-in to be approved or enforced, these team officials said.
Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report notes that Portland Trail Blazers’ head coach Chauncey Billups says that they are telling players to be “extra vigilant” regarding the recent outbreaks.
Chauncey Billups on the NBA COVID outbreak: “We’re paying attention to it. We’re telling our guys to be extra vigilant. We’ve got to protect each other.” The Blazers have been fully vaccinated as an organization since last spring, fwiw.— Sean Highkin (@highkin) December 16, 2021
Despite the vigilance, it may be too little, too late, per Holmes.
But there’s definite rising concern among team health officials and team executives who see other leagues facing their own outbreaks and game postponements or cancellations.
“We are pretty much defenseless now — not against getting sick but against transmission and contraction,” said one Western Conference head athletic trainer.