The Mavericks were supposed to play the Pelicans Monday evening, even after Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Jalen Brunson had entered into the NBA’s “health and safety protocols,” the league’s linguistic sleight of hand for “COVID-19 exposure.” There was word that Maxi Kleber would join them, and now he has, along with Dwight Powell. The rest of the team traveled yesterday to Charlotte, where they will play the Hornets tonight at 6 p.m. I wish they weren’t.
Given that five of its rotation players are out, I do not have high hopes for the Mavs’ delivering any sort of payback for the 118–99 home loss to the Hornets a couple of days before the new year, a game that wasn’t even that close and caused Luka Doncic to come back out to get some shots up after it was over. But that is not why I wish they had postponed this game. It’s not just the Mavs. The Heat, Sixers, and Celtics are all dealing with “health and safety protocols” absences, and you have to imagine that it is going to get worse before it gets better. Tonight’s Atlanta-Phoenix game was postponed this morning; it’s the seventh game to be postponed so far, and the season is less than a month old.
Yesterday, the league added more to its already lengthy health and safety guidelines, requiring team personnel to stay home for the next two weeks “at all times” except for team activities and store runs, and forbidding guests at team hotels. Will that be enough? I don’t think so. Without a bubble and without vaccines, it looks like the season will have to proceed a week at a time, if they insist on keeping going.
I don’t know what the solution is. A few different bubbles scattered around the country? Pushing pause for two weeks while teams get healthy and out of quarantine and trying to come up with best practices going forward? I really do not know. But I’m expecting a lot more games will look like what the Mavs roll out tonight, with Boban Marjanovic as the only true big man on the roster (maybe James Johnson counts) and a lot of rookies and little-used players on the court. [Update: I totally blanked on Willie Cauley-Stein, who has started the past few games and thus far has been a welcome addition to the team. Sorry, WCS. Still, a very thin big-man rotation.] That could lead to injuries (worst case) or just bad basketball.
Either way, not a great future. But I suppose that is sort of what everyone is dealing with, so why should this be any different?