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Covid is here to stay in the NBA’s daily business, and the league has chosen to proceed as if the virus isn’t going anywhere. That means instead of putting the league on pause — like the NHL has — games are taking place as scheduled as often as possible. When teams need extra players, they can sign as many as they need on hardship exemptions.
Although the recent omicron wave hasn’t affected the league’s desire to continue its season, the explosion of positive cases has changed the day-to-day testing regimen across the NBA. Before Thanksgiving, vaccinated players (the league says 97 percent of players are vaccinated, and Ty Lue said the Clippers were 100 percent vaccinated preseason) were only tested if they were symptomatic. As such, there was a decent chance that asymptomatic positive players were still taking the floor. Teams would increase testing when one positive case was detected, something Lue and the Clippers made note of when Nicolas Batum contracted Covid in November.
Now, during the holiday season, the NBA has encouraged additional testing, but mandated daily testing still isn’t occurring, per a report from ESPN. That means teams could be testing unevenly and potentially keeping players out of the health and safety protocols, though hopefully that isn’t the case.
In the latest SB Nation survey of NBA fans, responders were split on whether the NBA is handling the current pandemic properly, based on testing, postponements, and the league’s overall strategy.
40 percent of fans said that the NBA should continue to play as many games as possible, while 38 percent of fans believe that the league should go on a 10-day hiatus, presumably to allow players to sit out the peak of the omicron wave. 123 players have entered the protocol in December alone, about one-fourth of the league. Another 12 percent of fans think the season should be suspended.
The league is considering modifying its protocols, but all in the interest of getting players back on the court. There is talk of letting asymptomatic players suit up provided their viral levels are low enough to reduce transmission. The NBA is also working with the players association on shortening the 10-day quarantine period based on how quickly some vaccinated and boosted players appear to be shedding the virus.
At the moment, it appears that most of the new Covid cases in the league are asymptomatic — Lue has said that both Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson haven’t had symptoms — so that is giving the NBA momentum to continue pushing the schedule forward. However, the sheer number of players testing positive is drastic and has to be creating some level of concern, even if no one is getting seriously ill. It is a difficult situation to navigate, presumably why fans are so split on how to proceed.
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