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If so inclined, an NBA player could now test himself for the coronavirus and get results on his phone in no more than 20 minutes.

And the league is convinced those tests are both fast enough and accurate enough.

It’s a high-tech answer to the issue of waiting for test results. The NBA has partnered with a company called Cue Health, which is providing the league with technology that allows anyone to essentially test themselves for COVID-19. A person applies the swab to the inside of their nose, places it in a reader — roughly the size of two decks of cards — connected wirelessly to their smartphone and gets the results back much faster than most other alternatives can deliver.


The NBA, based on a study done by the Mayo Clinic, says the tests are right 97.8 percent of the time. Cue was in the process of using the technology for flu tests when the pandemic began, then pivoted quickly when the scope of the world’s global fight against the coronavirus became clear.

“We were in clinical studies when COVID hit,” Cue CEO and co-founder Ayub Khattak said. “It was a pretty quick transition for us because the platform is really modular, so making COVID-19 tests was relatively routine for us.”

Testing results last season, in some cases, kept NBA teams and players waiting for hours.

The relationship with Cue and the league has now touched parts of three seasons. It essentially began when the league was assembling plans for the NBA’s restart bubble to finish the 2019-20 season, and the technology has only continued evolving since. The test is of the molecular diagnostic variety and is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We have great experience with the Cue test and are confident in its effectiveness to identify cases when testing is necessary in our highly vaccinated population,” said Jimmie Mancell, the team physician for the Memphis Grizzlies and vice president of the NBA Physician’s Association. “The Cue test’s accuracy is more than acceptable for point of care screening, as no test is 100% accurate. If clinical suspicion remains high, we are capable of validating the results with additional testing.”


For now, it doesn’t seem likely that many in the NBA will have to use the Cue test on a regular basis.

Those who are fully vaccinated will not be tested regularly; only the players who are unvaccinated — roughly 4 percent of the league, or basically one per team on average — will be subject to taking the tests on practice, meeting and travel days. Game-day clearance for those players will still require a conventional PCR test.

Lisa Byington steps into play-by-play role

It had the feel of the first day of school for Lisa Byington, who was learning her way around Fiserv Forum, where the Milwaukee Bucks play their home games. A couple of television production trucks were stationed in a corridor not far from the court, but Byington faced a dilemma: Which belonged to Bally Sports Wisconsin, the team’s broadcast partner?

She took her chances and poked her head inside one of them and was excited to see some familiar people, including John Walsh, director of the Bucks’ broadcasts. Walsh welcomed her by pointing to a box of cookies. “We still have some left!” he said. Byington had arrived early Sunday for her first home game as the NBA team’s new play-by-play voice.


Lisa Byington, the first female full-time play-by-play broadcaster, talks with a reporter before a game between the Bucks and Thunder earlier this month.
Lisa Byington, the first female full-time play-by-play broadcaster, talks with a reporter before a game between the Bucks and Thunder earlier this month.Taylor Glascock/NYT

Women have been broadcasting men’s sports for years now, Byington said, but not every game for one team and for one fan base.

“That’s the big difference, and that will be the big shift,” she said. “Because fans can handle a voice coming in and out for a national network. But now you’re based in the community, you’re going to events, you’re interacting with them, and it’s your voice on highlights and on social media — all of that.”

And although Byington is not naive to the significance of her gender, she does hope the storyline has a short shelf life.

“It’s a part of the process,” she said. “But if you’re asking me the same questions 10 years from now — or even next month — then there’s a problem.”

Bucks extend GM Jon Horst

Bucks general manager Jon Horst has signed a multi-year contract extension after helping Milwaukee win its first NBA title in a half-century.

The move comes less than two months after the Bucks signed coach Mike Budenholzer to an extension. Milwaukee won the NBA Finals over the Phoenix Suns in six games to win its first championship since 1971.

“I am blessed and excited to continue with the Bucks,” Horst said.