No New COVID-19 Cases Among Players Since April 7

There were no confirmed positives in the latest round of COVID-19 testing, the NBA announced on Twitter. This marks the first time since Feb. 3 with no positive results in the weekly tests. The league reported that 488 players have been undergone testing since April 7.

The NBA appears to gotten its COVID-19 situation under control, having announced just one positive test in each of the previous three weeks. After a slew of postponements in January and February, no games have been affected by the virus since March 2.

With a little more than four weeks remaining in the regular season, today’s news offers hope that the playoffs can be held without any virus-related disruption.

Knicks Notes: Rose, Henson, Quickley, Barrett

Knicks guard Derrick Rose still doesn’t have his wind back after contracting the coronavirus last month, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Rose, who missed 10 games due to the virus and an ankle sprain, had significant symptoms and described his bout as having the flu “times 10.” He’s served as a key cog for New York this year, averaging 11.9 points, four assists and 25 minutes in 16 games.

“Having COVID, coming back in, missing the game, just trying to get my rhythm, trying to get my timing down, trying to get my wind, but that’s going to come,” Rose said, as relayed by Berman. “I’m trying to use these last 20-something games to prep myself for a playoff series.

“It’s going to take some time, but it’s going day by day, practice by practice, and in the game, quarter by quarter. I had a pretty good half last game and now the goal is to have two legit halves and just play as hard as I can so I can build up my wind.”

There’s more out of New York today:

  • John Henson will miss Friday’s game against Memphis due to a calf strain, according to Berman (Twitter link). Henson is under a 10-day contract with the team and may not see time due to the injury. The 30-year-old is in his ninth NBA season and holds past experience with Milwaukee, Cleveland and Detroit.
  • Immanuel Quickley denied that he’s hitting the well-documented “rookie wall,” Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. As Bondy details, Quickley is shooting just 31% in his last seven games, working to get through a slump. “As far as the rookie wall, I don’t really feel it,” Quickley said. “I’m just gonna continue to do whatever’s got me here,” he said. “There’s gonna be ups and downs throughout a season, ups and downs throughout a game.”
  • RJ Barrett continues to make strides in his second NBA season, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. Barrett has increased his scoring average from 14.3 to 17.5 points per game this year, also raising his shooting marks from 40% to 45% from the field and 32% to 38% from deep. “He’s coming into his own and knowing who he is as a player,” teammate Julius Randle said. “Down the stretch, he’s getting to his spots. He’s playing well. Very comfortable and continuing to grow as a player.”

One New COVID-19 Case Among Players Since March 31

The NBA and NBPA have formally announced that of the 483 players tested for the coronavirus within the last week, one has returned a confirmed positive test.

This is the third consecutive week with just one positive COVID-19 test among players, as the NBA has managed to avoid any major outbreaks in the second half thus far.

As a result, no games have been postponed for reasons related to coronavirus in over a month — the most recent postponement occurred on March 2.

Since the league and the players’ union don’t release any specifics about COVID-19 testing, we don’t know the identity of the player who tested positive.

NBA Expects All Arenas To Be At Full Capacity In 2021/22

The NBA is optimistic that all of its teams will be able to host fans at full capacity in their home arenas next season, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

As Holmes explains, the NBA’s partnership with CLEAR, officially announced today in a press release, represents a key part of the league’s efforts to get fans back into buildings. A third of the league’s 30 teams have already been using the company’s Health Pass program, which allows fans to provide and verify their COVID-19-related health information before entering an arena, and more clubs are expected to follow suit.

When the 2020/21 season began, only a small handful of NBA teams were allowing any fans into games, but more teams have joined that list as the season has progressed. Currently, more than two-thirds of the league’s 30 franchises are hosting fans in some form.

The ever-growing number of individuals receiving coronavirus vaccinations will also be a factor in the league’s push to get arenas back to full capacity by the fall. As Holmes explains, teams must still comply with local and/or state protocols, but those restrictions should loosen in the coming months, and CLEAR’s Health Pass program will offer the ability to link an individual’s vaccination records to their account.

The Raptors may be a wild card in the NBA’s effort to return things to relative “normal” for 2021/22. The rate of vaccinations has been slower in Canada than in the U.S., and the province of Ontario has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 as of late, having just reinstituted a month-long stay-at-home order. The hope is that the situation will improve by the fall and that the displaced Raptors, who are spending the ’20/21 campaign in Tampa, will be able to return to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto next season.

Atlantic Notes: Henson, Hill, Fournier, Maxey

It doesn’t sound as if Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau expects the team’s latest addition, big man John Henson, to crack the center rotation, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

“The John Henson signing was just insurance,” Thibodeau said. “Felt we wanted to get a look at both [Henson and fellow recently-added big man Norvel Pelle). We had a roster spot available and that’s what we chose to do with it. I like the idea of it.”

With center Mitchell Robinson out indefinitely after undergoing a surgery to address a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot last month, the team still expects to lean on veteran big men Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson to soak up most of the minutes at center.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that he does not know when new addition George Hill will make his Philadelphia debut, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. The veteran point guard is still recovering from a February thumb surgery. “I can’t see it anytime soon,” Rivers said. “I had that same injury. That’s not anything you mess around with. Just one whack, you may not get injured, but the pain is excruciating because the nerves are so raw. So we’re gonna try to be as tentative as possible with his injury.”
  • New Celtics shooting guard Evan Fournier will likely miss Boston’s games for the rest of the week as he remains in the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, tweets Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “We hope that it’s as little time as possible but (it’s) still part of what you have to get used to this year,” Boston head coach Brad Stevens said during an interview with Boston FM radio program Zolak and Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub, as recapped by Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link).
  • After missing one game due to the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, first-year Sixers point guard Tyrese Maxey has been cleared to return to the court, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Maxey, the No. 21 pick out of Kentucky in the 2020 NBA draft, has shown plenty of promise across a limited 14.9 MPG, averaging 7.4 PPG, 1.7 RPG and 1.6 APG in 42 appearances.

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, Thunder, Jazz, Pokusevski

Rookie Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, the No. 28 pick in the 2020 draft, has earned the trust of head coach Chris Finch and his teammates to tackle Minnesota’s top defensive assignments, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“At times I’ll say that people just aren’t knowing how long my arms really are,” McDaniels said of his defensive attributes for the Timberwolves. “The first time we played Houston, at the end of the game I had blocked Ben McLemore. I’m cool with him and he was like, … ‘I didn’t think your arms was that long.’ Just hearing little things like that is kind of uplifting.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Many Thunder players and staffers received their first COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, now that everyone aged 16 and up is eligible in the state of Oklahoma, according to Royce Young of ESPN.
  • The Jazz faced a recent scare in transit. One of the engines blew on the team’s plane during a recent road trip, forcing the team to return to Salt Lake City, per Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter link). Head coach Quin Snyder called the experience “traumatic and eerie.” He added, “The pilots, you have their appreciation for their expertise and training to keep us safe.” All-Star point guard Mike Conley elaborated, per Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). “Sounded like there was an explosion,” Conley said. “It felt like the plane was breaking apart in midair.” Reserve guard Jordan Clarkson added, “A lot of us came to a point where it was like, ‘This might be over for us,'” tweets Mark Medina of USA Today.
  • Thunder rookie power forward Aleksej Pokusevski has entered the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, tweets Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman.

One Positive COVID-19 Test Among Players Since March 24

The NBA and NBPA have announced their COVID-19 testing results for the past week, stating in a press release that just one player of the 481 tested since March 24 returned a confirmed positive result.

The league had a couple weeks in January where the number of positive cases was in the double-digits, resulting in several postponed games, but March’s testing results haven’t come close to approaching those figures.

[RELATED: 2020/21 NBA Game Postponement Tracker]

Since the All-Star Game earlier this month, no more than three players have tested positive for the coronavirus in a single week. This is also the second consecutive week with just one confirmed positive test.

The low number of cases among players means that no games have been postponed since March 2 — that 29-day stretch without any postponements is the longest of the season so far. The NBA would love to see that streak continue throughout the second half, since making up a handful of games near the end of the season would be a challenge.

And-Ones: COVID-19, Buyout Market, Marble, Carr, Albeck

While it fell through the cracks to some extent amidst a hectic trade-deadline week, the latest update from the NBA and NBPA on coronavirus testing results was another favorable one. According to the league and the union, just one player out of 485 tested positive for COVID-19 between March 17-24.

The NBA and NBPA would certainly rather see that number at zero, but the fact that there have been no postponements so far in the second half is a good sign that teams have avoided an outbreak since the All-Star Game.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Drummond have received most of the buzz as the biggest names on the buyout market, but John Hollinger of The Athletic views Otto Porter, Kelly Olynyk, and Gorgui Dieng as more appealing targets — if their respective teams are willing to move on from them.
  • Jabari Young of CNBC takes an early look at the NBA’s next TV deal, reporting that people in league circles believe the league could seek a deal worth a total of $75 billion. The NBA’s current TV rights deal doesn’t expire until 2025, so there’s still plenty of time to work out the next one.
  • Our JD Shaw provided a pair of updates on former second-round picks this week, reporting that veteran wing Devyn Marble is joining Maccabi Haifa in Israel and that 23-year-old guard Tony Carr underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL (Twitter links). Marble was selected 56th overall in the 2014 draft and appeared in 44 NBA games with Orlando, while Carr – the No. 51 pick in 2018 – has yet to make his NBA debut.
  • Former NBA head coach Stan Albeck passed away at age 89 on Thursday, as Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. Albeck coached the Cavaliers, Spurs, Nets, and Bulls from 1979-86 and also spent time as an assistant on a handful of other NBA staffs.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Okpala, Hornets, Fournier

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal mentioned that team GM Tommy Sheppard presents potential club transactions to him ahead of time, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. At 15-26, the Wizards are currently 3.5 games behind the tenth-seeded Pacers for a play-in berth. Washington may have to determine whether to be in buyer or seller mode as the trade deadline looms this week.

“Whenever he brings something to the table, he always asks me or incorporates me, so I appreciate that,” Beal said of Sheppard. Beal, 27, is averaging a career-best 32.1 PPG, the top scoring mark in the NBA, across 38 contests for the Wizards.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Second-year Heat power forward KZ Okpala has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, according to Tim Reynolds of ESPN (via Twitter). Miami big man Udonis Haslem remains absent, also due to the league’s coronavirus protocols, per the Heat (Twitter link). Okpala and Haslem had previously been sidelined as a result of COVID-19 protocols in January.
  • The Hornets are boosting their arena fan capacity from 3,000 fans (15% capacity in Charlotte’s home arena, the Spectrum Center) per game to 5,000 fans (25% arena capacity) per game, according to an official team press release. No COVID-19 pre-game testing or vaccine requirements have been announced, though coronavirus protocols including social distancing and face masks, will be enforced.
  • Despite being the frequent subject of trade chatter, with teams like several interested teams circling, Magic guard Evan Fournier, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is striving to not let talks affect his on-court play, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel“Sometimes like a deal might happen and then not at the last minute and you will never know it,” Fournier said. “It’s just the nature of this business, so there’s really no reason for me [to worry].” The list of interested teams continues to grow, as apparently the Nuggets have asked about Fournier’s availability as well, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Blazers, Nurkic, Wolves

The Jazz still have an open spot on their 15-man roster and they’re likely to fill it sooner or later, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. That could happen by Thursday’s deadline, but if Utah doesn’t add a player in a deadline deal, the team figures to scour the buyout market after March 25.

As for what type of player the Jazz may be targeting, league sources tell Jones that the club is in the market for a perimeter defender who could perhaps play 10-15 minutes against top perimeter scorers. Ideally, that player would also be able to knock down three-pointers, but there won’t be many solid three-and-D wings available for cheap on the trade market or in free agency.

The Jazz won’t be upset if they don’t find that player by Thursday, according to Jones, who says the club is happy with its current rotation and team chemistry.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers became the latest team to have many of their players receive the coronavirus vaccine. The team announced today in a press release that 13 players received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, having received access to an excess supply from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
  • Although Jusuf Nurkic remains sidelined for the Trail Blazers, the wrist he underwent surgery on in January has been cleared, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic, who notes (via Twitter) that Nurkic’s return is now being delayed by a right calf strain.
  • The Timberwolves will welcome fans back to the Target Center beginning on April 5 vs. Sacramento, the team announced in a press release. The club didn’t clarify exactly what the limited capacity will be in its arena for the rest of the season.