On January 9th, the Philadelphia 76ers took the court against the Denver Nuggets with only seven healthy players. After five individuals were out due to COVID related reasons in the wake of a positive test from Seth Curry. Doc Rivers, the Sixers coach, told reporters backup center Dwight Howard would have to play point guard. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of the unprecedented 2020-2021 NBA season. Seven games are postponed, three of which involved the Boston Celtics. This season is tremendously challenging to navigate for coaches. Doc Rivers explains, “I’m looking at our stat sheet, and we have [three guys] at 40-plus [minutes], and it couldn’t be avoided,” Rivers adds, “Now we play again in two days, and then we play again. So that’s my concern with this. We got to be very careful in how we navigate over the next week.”
Players are forced to play abnormally long sessions and frequently worry about their next game eligibility. Just an hour before, Bradley Beal, a guard for the Washington Wizards, was ready to play against the Boston Celtics. At the last minute, the NBA pulled him out of Capital One Arena because of his exposure to Celtics guard Jayson Tatum who recently tested positive for COVID-19.
Following these postponements, the NBA announced additional COVID-19 protocols. Including limiting interactions between players to elbow or fist bumps and force teams to develop seating plans on team flights, which has angered many NBA players. Oklahoma City Thunder guard George Hill states, “We wanna play the game… but I don’t understand some of the rules. We can sweat 48 minutes with a guy next to us for 48 minutes, but we can’t talk to them afterward. It makes no sense.” Although there are plenty of negatives that have been arisen about this season, there are also some positives for players. Tyrese Maxey, a rookie guard for the Sixers, scored 39 points and racked up seven rebounds and six assists in the COVID-dominated Sixers vs. Nuggets game. If the Sixers could play with their average starting five, Maxey would have never played big minutes and showed the Sixers and fans his undeniable talent.
NBA fans have also suffered from this abnormal NBA season. Sean Hickey, an avid supporter of the NBA, states, “there’s a different sort of anticipation [around the season].” Sean’s worries revolve around the season getting shut down as it did in March. With both players, coaches, and fans all affected by COVID-19, the future of this NBA season and later seasons frightens everyone involved.
Graphic: Jiah Lee