“Not ideal," Hawks guard Kevin Huerter tweeted, shortly after the postponement of the game in Phoenix was announced.
Also not playing Wednesday: Zion Williamson, ruled out by the New Orleans Pelicans for their game at the Los Angeles Clippers because of the league's health and safety protocols. In his case, Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said, the issue was an inconclusive test.
“He's not with us here at the game tonight," Van Gundy said. “He's back in his hotel room and we'll know more as further results come back."
Contact-tracing issues can also be triggered when a player is found to have been, or possibly have been, exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19. That has been the issue for a number of players in recent days, excluding the 16 new positives.
In the previous five weeks combined, only 15 players tested positive. But even the current week's rate is well below what the league dealt with going into training camps, when 48 players tested positive in the week before practices could formally begin leaguewide.
“I’m not terribly upset about any of the things we have to do. It kind is what it is at this point and we’ll try to make the most of it and get through it,” Toronto guard Fred VanVleet said Wednesday. “It does feel like it’s getting a bit much ... like trying to plug holes in a sinking boat.”
The latest postponements push the total overall this season to nine because of virus issues. The Suns, Hawks, Heat, Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams dealing with significant roster depletion in recent days because of either positive tests, tracing — which indicates if someone has been in an unsafe amount of contact with a person who tested positive — or both.
It's all part of a turbulent week that also saw the league and the National Basketball Players Association release updated rules strictly limiting players from venturing away from their homes or hotels for anything other than games, practices, workouts or emergencies. The new rules will be in place for at least two weeks, with hopes the virus issues around the league calm down in the interim.
“Either get with the program or stay home," VanVleet said. “And I’m at work today.”
Phoenix's next possible game is Saturday at home against Indiana; that would seem in doubt. The Celtics are hoping to host the Magic on Friday in the second game of what was intended to be a two-game series; if that game happens, it would be Boston's first contest in a full week.
“I think the biggest thing is, obviously we want to be safe, first and foremost, but we want to figure out how we can do it," Heat guard Duncan Robinson said. “Because recently, I think probably the biggest thing we’ve all struggled with is the uncertainty of, ‘Who’s playing? Who’s out? What are we doing? What’s this protocol? What’s that protocol?’ So, that’s been frustrating but everyone’s going through it."
Postponed games are likely to be rescheduled in the second half of the season. The league has only released schedules through March 4, saying earlier this season that the second half would also include “any games postponed ... that can reasonably be added to the second half schedule."
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San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Chip Engelland wears a face mask and gloves to protect against the spread of COVID-19 as he helps the team warm up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in San Antonio, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Credit: Eric Gay
Credit: Eric Gay