(AP) — The San Antonio Spurs are dealing with a coronavirus outbreak among four players, the NBA said Tuesday, meaning the Spurs will not play until the middle of next week at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms — whose city was picked to play host to the NBA All-Star Game and skills competitions on March 7 — raised major concerns about the notion of fans coming to the city for the events. “People should not travel to Atlanta to party,” she said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The NBA on Tuesday postponed five more games: the next three for the Spurs — at Cleveland on Wednesday, at New York on Saturday and at Indiana on Monday — as well as the next two for the Charlotte Hornets while contact tracing is completed.
The Hornets were scheduled to play host to Chicago on Wednesday and Denver on Friday. Their games have been halted because they were the last team to play the Spurs, losing to them on Sunday. The league is reviewing data to see if any Hornets may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, a process that takes time.
Charlotte’s next possible game is now Saturday at home against Golden State, in what would be Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s annual return to North Carolina, where he grew up. San Antonio’s next possible game is Feb. 24 at Oklahoma City, meaning the Spurs will have more than a week between contests — joining Washington and Memphis as teams to endure such a situation this season.
The postponements announced Tuesday push the total of games that have been moved back this season because of positive tests or contact tracing issues to 29, including the Spurs’ game at Detroit that was to have been played Tuesday night. The NBA called that game off on Monday.
Denver will now play at Cleveland on Friday, the NBA said. That game, originally targeted for the second half of the season, is replacing the postponed Nuggets-Hornets game on the schedule. The NBA has said it will shuffle some games, when possible, to accommodate the need to reschedule games in the second half of the season.
The NBA does not reveal which players tested positive, but its announcement of the latest postponements said the Spurs had positive tests among players — and did not mention coaches. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced last month, on his 72nd birthday, that he has received the vaccine that protects against the effects of COVID-19.
The Spurs were without guard Quinndary Weatherspoon for their game Sunday against Charlotte because of the league’s COVID-19 protocols; Weatherspoon had played 10 minutes on Friday in Atlanta, then was flagged by the protocols over the weekend.
Being ruled out because of the protocols can suggest any number of things, including a positive test, a suspected positive test or contact-tracing data showing that a player may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.
Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers and others have spoken out in recent days to express their unhappiness about the idea of playing an All-Star Game during a pandemic — and wedging it into an already jam-packed and truncated season.
The NBA told teams Monday that strict protocols will be in place for the All-Star events; players will be allowed a very limited number of guests, all participants must travel to Atlanta by private car or plane, and for the most part players will be allowed to leave their hotels only for All-Star events at the arena.
Tickets will not be sold. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this week that some vaccinated front-line workers will be invited to attend, but there will not be events for the general public — an obvious change from past All-Star weekends, which tend to attract tens of thousands of fans for the game, parties and atmosphere.
“Under normal circumstances, we would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star game, but this is not a typical year,” Bottoms said. “I have shared my concerns related to public health and safety with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks. We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party.”
Bottoms also said there will be “no NBA sanctioned events open to the public” and that the city strongly encourages local businesses “to host events in the city related to this game.”