When the Miami Heat takes on the Boston Celtics on January 10, it will look a lot different than the last time the two teams faced off. While the Heat roster has thus far avoided COVID-19 related issues this season, the Celtics have found themselves absolutely depleted after just 10 games.
Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra said learning about how their opponents are so heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic is “sobering,” according to the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang. “There is an element of unknown and uncertainty. It’s just a reality. It makes everybody feel a little bit uncomfortable.”
According to the Celtic’s injury report released on Saturday, a total of seven players, including star Jayson Tatum, were already ruled out due to health and safety protocols, and there was a genuine concern as to whether or not the game could still be played. As per NBA rules, each team must have at least eight players ready to go for the game to be played.
By Saturday evening, it was revealed that Jayson Tatum had tested positive for COVID-19 and would be out for 10-14 days.
The Celtics’ injury report as of January 9:
Questionable Due to Health & Safety Protocols:
Out Due to Health & Safet Protocols or Injury as Noted
Kemba Walker (Left knee injury recovery)
Romeo Langford (Right wrist surgery)
COVID-19 Contact Tracing Took Out Wizards’ All-Star Just Before Playing the Heat on Saturday Night
While coronavirus contact tracing hasn’t forced the Heat to shake up their lineup, it appears to be affecting each team they’re playing on their current road trip. Two hours prior to tip-off in Washington, D.C. the Wizards ruled out Russell Westbrook due to a new left quadriceps injury.
Westbrook’s absence would not go unnoticed, as the 32-year-old was averaging 19.3 points and 11.3 assists in 37.1 minutes per game this season, but then an hour before the Heat’s game was scheduled to start on January 9, the Wizards announced that All-Star Bradley Beal would also not be playing.
Beal was not injured. He was ruled out due to contact with Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, as the Wizards had played Boston the day before.
The Sixers are Also Depleted Due to COVID-19 Protocols
As luck would have it, it appears that Heat will again take on another team depleted by COVID-19 contract tracing, the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami is scheduled to travel to Philadelphia for a two-game series next week, and they will be playing a Sixers roster without most of their starters.
During the Sixers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, they took the court with league-minimum eight available players but forcing injured forward Mike Scott to be active, the Sun Sentinel reported.
While it may ultimately be a good thing for the Heat, getting to play opposing teams at a time when they’re not at their best, knowing that fact can be a killjoy to the competitive spirit. A win is a win, but NBA stars want to be victorious knowing that they beat out the best of the best, not because of pandemic protocols, for which each and every single player is susceptible to falling victim.