The NBA on Sunday postponed a total of five games involving nine teams in response to rising coronavirus numbers, raising the number of contests that have been pushed back this season to seven.
Called off were three Sunday games: Cleveland at Atlanta, Denver at Brooklyn and New Orleans at Philadelphia. Also shelved were Orlando’s game at Toronto on Monday and Washington’s game at Brooklyn on Tuesday.
The postponements came on the same day that Atlanta announced star guard Trae Young entered the league’s health and safety protocols and the Los Angeles Lakers said coach Frank Vogel also was added to the list.
Leaguewide, through Sunday afternoon, there were at least 68 players who have either been ruled out to play — or in the case of the postponed games, would have been ruled out — because they are in the protocols. That number has soared in recent days, with the NBA just one of many sports leagues worldwide dealing with a rapidly worsening issue.
U.S. officials are expecting a wave of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated given the surge of holiday travelers and gatherings expected in the coming days. The NBA has said 97% of players are fully vaccinated and somewhere around 60% had received boosters as of last week. It was not clear how many of the current positive cases involve those who are ineligible for a booster shot or those who have chosen not to receive one.
Also not clear is how many of the NBA cases involve asymptomatic players. The NFL has revised its protocols so that only unvaccinated players and those experiencing possible symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested. The NHL has five teams shut down through Christmas because of outbreaks, and numerous college games at all levels have been canceled in recent days.
The league and the National Basketball Players Association have been discussing a plan in which teams in desperate need of players would be able to sign reinforcements to 10-day contracts but without those deals impacting salary cap and luxury tax figures. That deal has not yet been finalized, though talks are continuing.