The NBA has been pressing onward despite a massive spike in COVID-19 cases around the league that has mirrored what is happening around the country as the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant takes its toll during the holiday season.
Only two games have been postponed thus far, as the Chicago Bulls hitting 10 players out on the COVID list plus injuries led to their two games this week being pushed back, but as other teams approach similar numbers of player out in protocols, they have simply had to add replacement players on hardship exemptions and press on. With the league’s biggest day of the season coming up next Saturday, with five highly anticipated Christmas Day games, an awful lot of the shine of those contests has been removed by potential COVID absences.
The latest marquee name to hit protocols is Hawks guard Trae Young on Sunday, who would need to test out with two consecutive negative tests by Friday if he’s going to be able to play against the Knicks in New York on Christmas, the place where he became one of the NBA’s great villains last postseason.
Atlanta Hawks All-Star guard Trae Young has entered the league’s Covid protocols, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 19, 2021
Young joins a rather outrageous list of names currently in protocols who could miss Christmas Day action. On the Knicks, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin are both in protocols, while Celtics-Bucks may go on without Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis, and Al Horford — not to mention Khris Middleton currently sitting with a knee injury.
The primetime matchup between the Nets and Lakers will likely be without Kevin Durant in COVID protocols (and Kyrie Irving, as he is in protocols a day after entering the testing pool). The biggest group of Nets currently in protocols, including James Harden, went in on Dec. 14, which could bring them back, provided they are healthy enough to do so. On the other side, Anthony Davis is out with a knee injury and a number of the Lakers reserves are in protocols, including Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, and Avery Bradley (Talen Horton-Tucker, likewise, went in on Dec. 14 and could return).
Warriors-Suns and Mavericks-Jazz are, for now, the two games on the Christmas schedule without any major COVID absences (although Luka Doncic is currently out with an ankle injury), and the league will be hoping dearly that remains the case. It has been a rather disastrous month for COVID cases in the NBA and around the country, and unfortunately it feels much closer to the beginning of the surge rather than the end.