Like all professional sports, the COVID-19 pandemic has largely impacted the NBA and how the season is operating this year. The NBA season is shortened from 82 to 72 games this year with a variety of health and safety measures in place.
Just one month into the season, 20 games have been postponed due to health and safety reasons, the majority because teams don’t have the required eight players to play an NBA game.
In one instance, the Philadelphia 76ers played a game against the Denver Nuggets with only seven players. 76ers fans were confused and frustrated their game wasn’t postponed and they understandably lost the game.
Last week the NBA announced new protocols with the rising COVID-19 cases around the association. Coaches also vowed to wear their masks more during games.
“I’m all for anything we possibly can do to ramp up the safety,” Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“I’m for whatever the NBA wants us to do,” Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. Both teams have been struggling with positive cases, and the Wizards have already had six games postponed.
Now you may be thinking, there must be an abundance of positive cases to have this many games postponed. Wrong. Out of 502 players, there have been a confirmed 11 positive cases since Jan. 13. The week prior, the league saw five more positive cases with 16.
With only about two per cent of the league players testing positive, the reason for so many game postponements is due to contact tracing. When a player tests positive, the NBA must figure out who else was exposed. The NBA obviously does not take this lightly. They investigate everything possible when this occurs. For example, they would check who sat next to the positive player on the team plane or bus, who was practicing with the positive player, who was matching up with the positive player in their last game, and anything else to prevent an outbreak. A big part prior to the investigation process is interviews, said NBA senior vice-president David Weiss.
“Contact tracing involves a lot of different sources and information,” Weiss said. “The core of it is interviews, to the stats that we collect digitally, to pictures of spaces, to all to all kinds of different things. And the information technology is helpful.”
The next team with big COVID-19 issues is the Memphis Grizzlies, who have had their next three games postponed due to contact tracing. Having just won five straight games to get over .500, they now must wait until mid next week to hopefully get back on the floor.
In total, 23 teams have had games postponed so far, with seven having played all of their possible games. The NBA will likely reschedule games that have been postponed in the second half of the season, which has yet to be scheduled.