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Is NBA Christmas In Jeopardy?

David Aldridge of the Athletic looks at the problems facing the league in the presence of Omicron.

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Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As the latest variant of coronavirus, omicron, makes its presence felt throughout the NBA, some have begun to wonder: are future games, including the Christmas slate, likely to be canceled? David Aldridge of the Athletic provides an overview of the issues facing the league given the current circumstances as more and more players enter health and safety protocols, noting that even current NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts has no good answers.

“I’ve been getting calls from our players all day — ‘Michele, are they going to cancel Christmas (games)?,’” National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts said Sunday.

“People are concerned about who would ultimately be available to play. And the answer is, I don’t know … it is, obviously, concerning. There are some questions right now about some of our so-called marquee players’ availability to be able to play on Christmas. That’s our day, and we’d hate to not be able to continue to own that day, But one might ask the question — if your marquee guys are all in quarantine, is it worth playing those games, or should those games be, if they can be, postponed? No one’s asked me. But at this point, I think it’s still coming down to prayer.”

The concern isn’t just around Christmas, but what happens afterward.

But an equally big issue in this league, now, is not the swath of the virus’ next cut through the league, which everyone involved expects to worsen into January. It’s not even the mandated, enhanced testing that will begin, uh, the day after ESPN’s Christmas extravaganza (insert your conspiracy theories here, but the reasoning is simple: testing after Christmas – and then, around and after New Year’s, accounts for the time players are home with families) and run through Jan. 6. It’s the renewed anxiety about having to go through this again, just as crowds had returned to the league after a year-plus of playing in empty buildings.

“We thought we’d gone through the worst, and the notion it might not be the worst is pretty spooky,” Roberts said. “We had, what, 97, 98 percent vax rate. … We thought we’ve done all that’s humanly possible, and we’ll be able to plow through the season. And all of a sudden, it’s worse than it was before. There’s a certain amount of, I guess, depression — now, what else?”

The league and the union are still in conversation about any permanent changes to testing protocols.

For now, the NBA and the union are maintaining their current testing protocols, which require players who test positive, regardless of their vaccination status, to sit out at least a week. Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 6, all players will be tested on game days, except those who’ve received their booster shots 14 days or longer before then, or who have recently recovered from COVID.

As Roberts notes, none of this is making players happy.

“The one thing about NBA players is, they’re no different from the rest of us,” Roberts said. “They’re like, what the hell?”

Currently, the Portland Trail Blazers are one of the few teams facing minimal impacts due to omicron (knock on wood).

You can read the entire piece here (subscription required).