COVID-19 has hit every team pretty hard this season. Amid a league-wide outbreak, many players got hit with temporary suspensions as they waited to get healthy and re-join their squad.
Unfortunately, the NBA experienced such a high number of suspensions that teams were forced to sign multiple G-League players to 10-day contracts just to have enough bodies to play.
The San Antonio Spurs were no different and, by game-time on Saturday night, half of their roster contained unfamiliar names and faces from the G-League.
Joking about the situation in his typical manner, Popovich gave a pretty hilarious response.
“I don’t even know half their names,” Gregg Popovich joked after being asked about the Spurs starting lineup against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
Unsurprisingly, the Spurs lost to a Sixers team that still had Joel Embiid, Seth Curry, and Tobias Harris.
It's a funny and lighthearted joke by Pop, but it does speak to the craziness that has been this NBA season so far. While the league has done a decent job of handling the COVID crisis, it hasn't been perfect.
In creating the new return-to-play protocols, the NFL and NFLPA focused on a new metric that measures the viral load of a player, known as the "cycle threshold" (CT). In essence, the CT value can measure whether a player is still contagious, even if in some cases he would still test positive on a traditional test.
That testing can begin as soon as one day after the initial positive and could significantly shorten the amount of time a vaccinated player spends away from the team facility.
There are now three ways for a vaccinated player to return under the new protocols:
Two PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that are either negative or produce a CT value of 35 or greater.
One PCR test that is either negative or produces a CT value of 35 or greater, and a negative Mesa test result taken with 24 hours of the PCR test. (Mesa tests usually return results in less than an hour.).
Two negative Mesa tests.
Whatever the NBA decides to do, it's clear that the COVID situation isn't going away anytime soon. This virus is here to stay, and the NBA has to perfect its health and safety protocols going forward.
For now, all we can do is wait things out and hope it gets better. o far, no player has gotten seriously ill, but it does suck that teams have to endure the absence of so many key contributors at once.
At least guys like Popovich are helping to lighten the mood a bit.