COVID has ravaged the NBA over the past few weeks, and now the Celtics are the latest team to be hit with an outbreak. Al Horford, Grant Williams, Jabari Parker and Sam Hauser all missed Friday’s game against the Warriors after testing positive for the virus. Also, point guard Dennis Schröder sat out because of a non-COVID illness.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to avoid,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said, “but it seems inevitable at times for everybody.”
Celtics guard Josh Richardson missed the last two games after testing positive for COVID and stayed behind in Phoenix after Boston’s game against the Suns last Friday, but he was cleared to return to face Golden State.
The Warriors, meanwhile, were without guard Jordan Poole, a rising star, because he has also entered the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Over the past two weeks the NBA has been pummeled by a string of positive test results, with more than 50 players testing positive. The league and the NBA Players Association agreed Thursday to enhance safety procedures for the holiday season, with increased testing and mask wearing among players, even if they are vaccinated.
“Just being more diligent,” Udoka said. “Our surroundings and the mask wearing is a big thing, who you’re with outside of the building off the court, and that’s pretty much it. We’re trying to follow the protocols of the league and be more strict with what we’re doing. We’re impacted. It’s hit us like the rest of the league, something we’ve all had to adapt to and adjust to. It is what it is. We have healthy bodies and other guys get opportunities.”
The absences of Horford, Williams, Parker and Hauser left Boston extremely thin in the frontcourt for Friday night’s showdown. Romeo Langford started in place of Horford, and Boston’s other four regular starters were available.
Horford is averaging 12.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game this year. Williams has seized an expanded role recently and is averaging 7.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. Parker and Hauser— a two-way contract player — are not in the regular rotation, but could have been in line for expanded opportunities with these other players out.
The Celtics play again Saturday vs. the Knicks, and since players cannot return until registering two negative tests in a 24-hour period, it is extremely unlikely that any of the players who were sidelined Friday because of COVID will be cleared to play. There is a chance Schröder could come back, though, since he is out with a non-COVID illness.
Teams can apply for a hardship waiver that allows them to go above the 15-man roster limit if they have at least four players who will miss at least three games. Udoka said that as of Friday night, the Celtics had not had discussions about adding a player, because they still had 11 available and were hopeful Schröder would return soon.
“You have to tinker with the lineups at times,” Udoka said, “but we have other guys who are able and we’ll increase those minutes. Nothing else you can do.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.