COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the NBA as the Omicron variant may force the league to shut down. Three games were postponed on Sunday due to locker room outbreaks, including Philadelphia 76ers versus New Orleans Pelicans.
The Sixers were already short-handed heading into the matchup, then Andre Drummond and Shake Milton entered the health and safety protocols. They joined Georges Niang on the COVID-19 list while Furkan Korkmaz remains out with a non-COVID illness. Philadelphia also listed starters Joel Embiid (left ankle), Danny Green (right hip), Tyrese Maxey (quad contusion) all questionable with physical injuries.
The team literally had five healthy players on the roster: Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Isaiah Joe, Charles Bassey. Second-year forward Paul Reed was out in Las Vegas with the Delaware Blue Coats of the G League.
It’s getting messy and complicated in the NBA right now. The Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets postponed their game due to COVID-19 concerns. Ditto for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers expressed concern about the resurgent global pandemic during his pre-game media availability on December 15.
“I’m just worried in general,” Rivers told reporters. “I see football and hockey and us – there’s just a lot of it right now. There’s a lot of it nationwide, outside of sports as well.”
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Grant Riller Waived, Myles Powell Signed
The Sixers have waived Grant Riller after the two-way guard elected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, per Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck. The team has signed former Seton Hall guard Myles Powell to a two-way deal to take his spot.
Powell went undrafted in 2020 after averaging 21 points per game in a season marred by legal troubles. He filed a lawsuit against Seton Hall that claimed the school misdiagnosed a knee injury, per Neubeck. His most productive year came in 2018 when he was named the Big East’s Most Improved Player. He averaged 23.1 points per game while shooting 36.3% from three-point land.
COVID-19 Outbreak Seeks to Halt NBA Season
The NBA has seen 64 players and a coach enter COVID-19 protocols over the past six days, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The NBA and National Basketball Players Association have been discussing a contingency plan that would “require teams decimated by COVID to sign additional replacement players” in an effort to stop postponements. No one wants to hit pause on the season.
The proposed plan would allow teams to add three replacement players who wouldn’t count against a team’s salary cap or luxury tax. The so-called “hardship exception rules” would require a team to have at least four players sidelined and their healthy roster down to 13 players to qualify. Those sidelined players could be out due to COVID-19, physical injury, or a combination of the two. Five sidelined players would net teams an automatic replacement player, no questions asked.
Teams must carry at least eight healthy players under current NBA rules. The Sixers only had five healthy players heading into their matchup with the Pelicans, hence the postponement. Stay tuned. Things are getting really interesting throughout professional sports.