It’s been interesting watching the recent league-wide surge in players entering the NBA’s health & safety (read: Covid) protocols. While some teams have been more impacted than others (like the Bucks), a day doesn’t go by where another handful of players get sidelined either due to a positive Covid test or contact tracing. The NBA is allowing franchises to make up the roster gap with hardship exception contracts, allowing games to go on in severely watered-down form. Still, surviving these kinds of situations intact may take some sort of miracle:
Five more players have tested positive on the Cavaliers, sources say, joining Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro in the league's health and safety protocols. https://t.co/3xFNuWuLG5— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 19, 2021
There was bound to be a coming-to moment given everything going on with the wider dynamics of the pandemic, and in many ways its remarkable we made it through roughly 1.5 seasons without a serious outbreak like this. Given the circumstances, there’s the immediate concern about how the NBA navigates the coming weeks. Will they end up having to throw a sort of circuit breaker and suspend all play for a set period of time in the hope that most cases clear up? If they do, are those missed games simply skipped over, or do they try and backload schedules again to get close to a full 82 game season? An answer in the affirmative in that case would seem to raise more issues than it may solve, so I tend to believe they’ll keep the show on the road. Besides, we’ve not even heard a rumble about that idea being mooted.
The longer-term question is about how to avoid this sort of branching pathway in the future. I don’t envy the league office or the players association trying to revise Covid policies on the fly, especially as the individuals involved are not just the players, but a ceaselessly expansive list of contacts wound up in team staffs, arena personnel, media, and whoever else you can think of. For now, the most realistically viable option seems to be upping the testing and masking as needed while ideally explaining to players and fans what exactly the policies are. I’ve seen a lot of good commenter work on this latter front to try and clear up some of the confusion, but its very nature means it’s bound to be muddled.
So no, a circuit breaker won’t be thrown unless things get far more dire than they currently are. Unhappy as it might make everyone involved, games will continue so long as the respective teams can field enough players. Right now we’re flying on a bit of a wing and a prayer.
Edit: Shams and Woj had something of a tweet storm last night while I was finalizing this piece. Sounds like the league is making some changes to roster construction rules to give teams more flexibility. Per them:
Sources: The NBA will allow teams to sign one replacement player for each of its players who are under contract and tests positive for COVID-19 -- effective immediately through Jan. 19.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 20, 2021
Sources: NBA teams will now be required to sign one replacement player when they have two positive tests on the roster. For three positive tests, two replacement signings are required. For four positive results or more, three hardship signings required. https://t.co/tOtwOLzyb4— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 20, 2021
Another key note in NBA's roster rule changes for flexibility amid pandemic:— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 20, 2021
Two-way players -- who previously had 50-game max -- now have no limit on the number of games they can appear in, sources said. https://t.co/TjwvKcHP9y
Most importantly for teams: Hardship signings will not impact team's salary cap and luxury tax, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 20, 2021
NBA, NBPA agree to allow teams short-handed by COVID-19 to sign replacement players, memo says (ESPN)
The show goes on! These rules took effect last night, so Milwaukee may have some new faces in town shortly. However, the two-way restriction being lifted is big given the prevalence of Sandro Mamukelashvili and Javonte Smart around the parent club.
‘You can’t put a price on happiness’: Bobby Portis embraces Bucks stardom (WISN)
A nice one-on-one interview here with Bobby as he recounts the run of highs he’s experienced since staking his chances with Milwaukee last year. You can’t help but get caught up in his upbeat energy. Everything about him suggests a very genuine individual who makes rooting for him extremely easy.
Synergy NBA Heat Check, Vol. 4 (Synergy)
Some fun statistical observations in here from the folks at Synergy, including the fact that Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton are leading the league in off-guard efficiency in points per possession. You can wonder how long they can keep it up, but for now they’re filling their role in the rotation to near-literal perfection.
Luka Doncic and Rick Carlisle: The dissolution of their relationship (ESPN)
I know it isn’t Buck-related per se, outside of the rumored flirtation Milwaukee had with Rick Carlisle during the ECSF, but I think its instructive in understanding that coaching involves a skillset that goes deeper than Xs and Os. That’s obvious, I know, but sometimes it may be hard to visualize how the interrelationship aspect of the job with top players on your roster looks. Well, here’s an example of how it can all go south with the wrong coach-player pairing.
Fan Post of the Week
We all love it when a new winner climbs to the podium to be awarded their shiny NFT-like medallion, and I’m happy to say we’ve a new face with LondonBuck85’s “Who Else Checked the Betting Odds at the end of the third Quarter?” Everyone say hello to our UK-based friend Dom who, like many of our international fans, stays up until the unholy hours of the day to watch the Bucks toss the Indiana Pacers of the world into a trash can.
Know Your Enemy
- Houston Rockets - The Dream Shake - Inside the detailed mind of head coach Stephen Silas
It’s never easy being the guy placed in charge of a team beset by drama (James Harden’s exit), injuries, the vagaries of youth, and an overarching desire to just lose, baby. Stephen Silas has a tough job, but he’s making the best of a bad situation in coaching up his young roster in the hopes that it all clicks somewhere over the horizon.
- Dallas Mavericks - Mavs Moneyball - The Dallas Mavericks are a team without an identity
Erm... you actively hired Jason Kidd. That’s a sort of identity all its own.
If there is one upside to teams’ rosters getting absolutely hammered by Covid, its that guys who normally get seconded to tertiary roles for a number of reasons now have a spotlight to do something with. For both the Celtics and the Bucks, the key is finding some twinkle of a diamond in all this rough if they can manage it.
The Social Media Section
Happy anniversary, God King of Milwaukee
Damn Woj ain’t even report me being in health and safety protocol that’s tough— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) December 18, 2021
the first Big 3 walked— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) December 11, 2021
so this Big 3 could run pic.twitter.com/bENZX4fEg4
Congrats to the Herd, and Wenyen Gabriel for getting a call up to the Nets!
The Midwest's Cream of the Crop— Wisconsin Herd (@WisconsinHerd) December 18, 2021
The Wisconsin Herd has secured the top seed out of the Central Division ahead of the Showcase Cup Tournament!!#HerdUp pic.twitter.com/eiotMViwB8
The staff get rings
Today was a very special day…..today was our ring day!!! ⭐️ #2021NBAWorldChampions @Bucks pic.twitter.com/iKiN1Zo0Gr— Suki Hobson (@sukihobson) December 15, 2021
GIVE ME A RING!#bucksinsix#fearthedeer pic.twitter.com/8h1e0ZI0OR— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) December 14, 2021
Jrue Holiday looking at the Pacers defenders pic.twitter.com/ZMXtKK815A— Henny (@Gintama_stan) December 16, 2021
Welcome back, Semi
Very big and tall and popular with the fans
DeMarcus Cousins meets his biggest fan.— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) December 20, 2021
“Make basketball game-winning decisions like it’s your job”
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 19-13
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 16-16
The schedule says we’re supposed to play three games this week, but we just got done facing the Cavs with eight men, and that squad is staring down the barrel of the fine line between fielding a roster and having to delay games. Hopefully the Bucks can continue to slap together a makeshift roster to get through Christmas.
Speaking of! Christmas Day basketball is on the horizon! It’ll be one of the most sad-trombone-noise national games the Bucks will play this year, but we’re on the schedule. Milwaukee has to get through three games this week and have a few days to recover from this past weekend’s back-to-back. Things begin at home on Wednesday hosting the Rockets, then the Bucks head to Texas to play Dallas on Thursday, and return home on Saturday to play the Celtics on Christmas Day.
I’ll guess 1-2 this week, with losses to the Rockets and Mavs simply because of Covid attrition, and hopefully a win on Saturday if a few of the guys can make their way back from health & safety protocols to suit up.