The Washington Wizards are finally back. The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t ready yet.
Washington played at San Antonio on Sunday night, the Wizards’ first game in 13 days after seeing six players test positive for COVID-19 and three others having to miss several days following contact tracing.
The Grizzlies won’t play until at least Saturday, after the NBA called off yet another game -- the 20th since Jan. 10 and the 21st postponement this season.
Memphis was scheduled to play Sunday and Monday at home against Sacramento. Those were called off late last week and now, the Grizzlies’ home game against Chicago that was scheduled for Wednesday is off as well.
The NBA said the Wednesday game was called off “due to contact tracing within the Grizzlies and the length of time preceding the game during which Memphis will be unable to practice.”
It was the sixth postponement for the Grizzlies, matching Washington for the most in the NBA.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said Sunday night in San Antonio. “It’s not where we want to be — but we get to play again and that’s the bottom line. It’s been a long time. We missed it. It’s good to be back.”
The earliest Memphis will play again is Saturday, also in San Antonio. Having six games called off in the season’s first half means, if the Grizzlies and Wizards are to play the full 72-game schedule, they would have 41 games in a 67-day span in the second half.
“I just hope that we never have to deal with this again,” Brooks said.
Later this week, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association are expected to consider whether the stiffer protocols that were put in place Jan. 12 can be loosened in some way. They were originally put in place in an effort to curb travel to anywhere except games, practices and workouts as the league's number of virus-related issues started climbing.
No fewer than 75 players — roughly 16% of the league — have already been on injury reports this season in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols. Reasons for missed games can include positive COVID-19 tests, inconclusive tests and contact tracing showing that a player may have been exposed to someone who had contracted the virus.
Some players have missed 10 games already, including Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. and Chicago teammates Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison. Porter and Satoransky played Friday; Hutchison was eligible to play that night as well but did not get into the Bulls’ game.
Other top players still out because of virus-related reasons include Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns — who revealed earlier this month that he tested positive, the latest blow to his family after seven of his relatives, including his mother, have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
In all, 23 teams have seen at least one game called off so far this season. The only exceptions: Brooklyn, New York, Toronto, Denver, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers. And the league last week announced that it was pushing back start times for 20 upcoming games, moves made in large part to allow additional time for game-day tests to be processed and returned. A similar move was made last week when a Detroit-Miami game was delayed five hours.
Postponed games, when possible, will be made up in the second half of the season that starts March 11 and runs through May 16. Players who test positive must go through a battery of cardiac and other tests before being cleared to return. Those who miss time for contact tracing must quarantine for a number of days as determined by the league based on their situation and continue to return negative COVID-19 tests before being able to play again.
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