The Celtics had seven of those players and Miami had another. But after Heat guard Avery Bradley was ruled out for Sunday – his test result was not announced, just his status – the rest of the Miami players needed their contact tracing data analyzed to determine if they had been potentially exposed.
This process would not have been completed in time for the 7 p.m. game, so the league canceled it. Boston was preparing to play the game with eight players available; the Celtics have 17 on their roster, seven were absent due to COVID-19 protocols and two more with injuries.
Meanwhile, the Heat just weren’t allowed to play anyone.
“We anticipated there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement distributed to The Associated Press and other outlets. “There is no plan to suspend the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and our health and safety protocols.”
The NBA had 148 games on the schedule so far until Sunday; the Boston-Miami game was only the second to be postponed for viral reasons. The other was on December 23, a game from Oklahoma City to Houston where the Rockets did not have the required eight players available.
But many teams are feeling the effects of missing players due to testing or other possible risks. Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant had the virus last spring, but must have missed three games last week after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He returned to the Nets on Sunday night.
“You’re starting to see what’s going on in our country directly affects the NBA because we’re no longer in that bubble safety net,” said Denver coach Michael Malone, whose club has been without Michael. Porter Jr. for his last six games. games – and counting – due to league protocols.
The Heat were staying in Boston overnight Sunday and are expected to play Philadelphia, another team with virus issues, on Tuesday and Thursday. The 76ers had eight eligible players and only used seven on Saturday in a loss to Denver, in part because some were excluded according to anti-virus protocols.
The Celtics should have been without Jaylen Brown, Javonte Green, Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, Tristan Thompson, Grant Williams et Robert Williams on Sunday. That’s all a team has ruled out for a game due to virus issues so far this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean none of the affected Celtics have tested positive.
They were in Miami for a game on Wednesday and Bradley played in that game for the Heat.
Additionally, a fourth Dallas player was added to the COVID-19 protocol roster on Sunday, but Maxi Kleber is listed as questionable instead of being out for Monday’s home game against New Orleans. Entrances Josh Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith and backup Jalen Brunson are always listed as out. Those three stayed behind in Denver following a win over the Nuggets on Thursday and missed Saturday’s home win over Orlando.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association made a plan last year to end the season in a bubble environment at Walt Disney World in central Florida, where no one has tested positive and no games have was missed because of the virus. But NBA commissioner Adam Silver told teams last month problems would be “inevitable” with games outside of a bubble, and he’s been proven right.
“I think the NBA is doing everything they can and they are doing a great job, and the (National Basketball Players Association) too, working together to do a great job to make sure we’re as safe as possible,” from Indiana Victor Oladipo said. ” It’s hard. You can do your best and unfortunately there will still be people who catch it. ”
Bradley – who signed with the Heat in the offseason – chose not to join the Los Angeles Lakers, his former team, in the bubble last year because he has a child with breathing issues and didn’t want to take unnecessary risk. He chose to play this season, calling living in a world affected by COVID “the new normal”.
“The numbers are going up,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Saturday. “This is the reality. We are committed to moving forward with our industry and we are doing it with the best science and following protocols, but at the end of the day we are not in control.
AP Basketball editor Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.
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