With mere hours before the Milwaukee Bucks tip off against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a surprising bit of news came out on social media: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of Giannis and on the outside of the playoff rotation, is unavailable due to the league’s COVID protocols.
Bucks' Thanasis Antetokounmpo has entered health and safety protocols and is listed out for Game 5 of the NBA Finals vs. Suns.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 17, 2021
In strict basketball terms, Thanasis’ absence is unfortunate but largely inconsequential. He has gotten only spot minutes during the playoffs and generally does not have a spot on the floor, outside of garbage time. The Bucks’ rotation has shrank all the way down to their five starters and three(ish) bench players, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo is not one of those three.
However, the larger issue is the ever-looming specter of the coronavirus, and the fact that Thanasis is absent because of something related to COVID-19. It could be as serious as a positive test or diagnosis, which would suggest that other members of the team – as well as his own family, a group that little brother Giannis is also a part of – may be similarly exposed. It could be as minuscule as a contact tracing precaution (as in, Thanasis may have recently come into contact with someone who tested positive) or a false positive. We simply don’t know, but as of yet we have no indication that anyone else with the Bucks has been affected.
For now, chalk it up to an over abundance of caution, regardless of the timing (which would be otherworldly bad for the Bucks, who are tied 2-2 and preparing to compete for a road win here in Game 5), the ongoing global pandemic is something that we all need to continue taking seriously. Here’s hoping Thanasis, and everyone else, ends up alright.
UPDATE: It appears that Thanasis is not the only person who will miss tonight’s game in Phoenix; we don’t know specifics yet, but at least one person on the Milwaukee staff is unavailable, as well as a member of the officiating crew.
Mike Budenholzer says the Bucks will not have a full staff available for tonight’s game in the wake of Thanasis Antetokounmpo entering the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols this afternoon ahead of tonight’s Game 5.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 17, 2021
NBA official James Williams will serve in the role of the umpire for tonight’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals, replacing Sean Wright, who is unable to officiate due to the league’s health and safety protocols.— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) July 17, 2021
Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00pm central time, we’ll see if that holds…
UPDATE: We’ll, that was quick. The member of the Bucks’ staff who is similarly unavailable is Josh Oppenheimer, per ESPN.