Team executives and other NBA health officials said they expect more players will have to enter health and safety protocols after Christmas and New Years, due to the likelihood of COVID-19 cases increasing across the country. country as people gather for the holidays.
Hovering over the current rally is the spread of the Omicron variant nationwide, although a league source said it has yet to be detected in the NBA. Going into the season, infectious disease experts told ESPN that the winter months would be the most challenging.
“Most of us think of it as a question of when, not if,” said a Western Conference general manager of the Omicron variant sweeping the NBA.
As of Monday afternoon, 46 NBA players have entered health and safety protocols this season, 41 of whom have missed games. Over the past two weeks, 31 players have entered the protocols, including 10 Chicago Bulls last week, leading to two Bulls games being postponed this week, the league announced Monday.
Two G-League games were postponed on Friday and Saturday because too many players were on health and safety protocols. Team executives and team health officials across the league had previously said they did not expect the NBA to cancel or postpone games due to recent outbreaks.
As this increase continues, with 21 players remaining in health and safety protocols, general managers and team health officials across the league describe a sense of resignation and uncertainty about what could slow the growing number of players. players in the protocols.
“It doesn’t seem like eradication is on the table,” said the head fitness coach of a Western Conference team. “I think, on some level, we will have to live with that.”
Several team officials said that while they are concerned that anyone will test positive for COVID-19, the situation is not considered as dire as last season, when 31 games were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks in the league.
“This is much more manageable than it was a year ago,” said a general manager of an Eastern Conference team. “In general, the urgency is not like then. [Pero] things can change in a week or two. The NBA has made it clear. “
The NBA has said that about 97% of players are vaccinated and the league has encouraged all eligible players and team personnel to receive booster shots. As of Monday, about 200 players have received booster injections and that number is expected to rise in the coming days, according to a league source. The NBA has imposed a December 17 deadline for players who are eligible to receive booster shots. For eligible players who do not receive the booster, they will face stricter protocols, including testing on game day. Employees who have not received booster shots by December 17 will face restrictions on their interactions with players and their access to the field and team travel.
“This was to be expected,” added an Eastern Conference general manager of the recent increase in players entering health and safety protocols. “We were told weeks ago, because of the holidays, that there was going to be a rebound, not just in the NBA but in general. So it’s not out of nowhere.”
“Expected numbers, but worrying,” said a second Eastern Conference general manager.
A head fitness coach for the Western Conference said: “The concern is with those who received [la vacuna de una sola inyección de Johnson & Johnson] or they did not receive a booster and have more than six months of waiting. There is concern about the decline in vaccines. “
The NBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.