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Karl-Anthony Towns Reveals He’s Tested Positive

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns has tested positive for COVID-19, he revealed on his Twitter account.

His announcement came shortly after the league postponed the GrizzliesTimberwolves game on Friday due to coronavirus issues within Minnesota’s team.

Towns, whose family has been devastated by the virus, said he will “immediately isolate and follow every protocol.”

“I pray every day that this nightmare of a virus will subside and I beg everyone to take it seriously by taking all of the necessary precautions,” Towns said.

Towns lost his mother and several other relatives to the virus. In his statement, he expressed concern for the health of his father and sister.

President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas says it is “heartbreaking” that Towns tested positive, especially with what the Towns family has been through with COVID-19, ESPN’s Malika Andrews tweets.

“It’s a lesson for all of us. Basketball is a microcosm of society right now…this virus is powerful,” Rosas said.

Rosas confirmed two players have tested positive and another is out due to contact tracing, Andrews adds in another tweet.

The Timberwolves previously announced that power forward Juan Hernangomez would isolate for at least 10 days due to health and safety protocols and that point guard Ricky Rubio would miss Friday’s game due to those regulations. The postponement suggests that Minnesota’s COVID-19 issues may have worsened.

Timberwolves-Grizzlies Game Postponed

The TimberwolvesGrizzlies game, scheduled for Friday evening, has been postponed in accordance with health and safety protocols, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter link).

Minnesota is the latest team with COVID-19 issues. The Timberwolves do not have the required eight players available to play the game due to ongoing contact tracing, according to a team press release.

The Timberwolves previously announced that power forward Juan Hernangomez would isolate for at least 10 days due to health and safety protocols and that point guard Ricky Rubio would miss Friday’s game due to those regulations. The postponement suggests that Minnesota’s COVID-19 issues may have worsened.

This mark the 13th postponement in the league this season. The Wizards, Suns, Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Rockets have been in the same predicament, forcing at least one postponement for those teams.

All of the previous postponements can be found here.

NBA, NBPA Discussing Third Two-Way Contract Slot For Teams

There was significant discussion on the NBA’s call with general managers today about the possibility of giving teams a third two-way contract slot for the rest of the season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Any agreement would have to be worked out with the National Basketball Players Association, Wojnarowski notes, adding that there’s momentum toward it happening. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter) that the NBA and NBPA are discussing the idea.

Since the NBA regular season began on December 22, the league has had to postpone 12 games, including 11 since this past Sunday. In every one of those instances, games were postponed because one team didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available due to COVID-19 protocols. Expanding rosters by one spot may slightly increase the odds of teams falling below eight available players.

Currently, teams are permitted to carry two players on two-way contracts, which don’t count against a club’s salary cap or luxury tax bill. This season, those players are permitted to be active for up to 50 of their teams’ 72 regular season games. The Suns and Trail Blazers are the only two teams that haven’t filled both their two-way slots.

A player who signs a two-way contract must have fewer than four years of NBA experience. That rule is expected to remain in place if the league and the players’ union agree to add a third slot, sources tell Charania (Twitter link), so a team wouldn’t be able to add a 10-year veteran with its new two-way spot.

As Jeremy Woo of SI.com notes (via Twitter), adding a total of 30 new roster spots for younger players could have a major impact on G League rosters, since many of the top candidates for two-way deals are preparing to play in the NBAGL bubble.

Jusuf Nurkic To Undergo Wrist Surgery, Miss At Least Eight Weeks

After suffering a right wrist fracture on Thursday night, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will undergo surgery and will be sidelined for at least the next eight weeks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The injury happened during the third quarter of Thursday’s game vs. the Pacers, apparently occurring when Nurkic swiped at the ball as Malcolm Brogdon drove to the basket. It’s the second major injury in the last two years for the 26-year-old, who missed most of last season due to a significant leg fracture.

The timeline reported by Charania would result in Nurkic missing the rest of the first half of the 2020/21 season, which ends on March 4 — the second half begins on March 11, eight weeks from yesterday. The Trail Blazers have 25 games on their schedule between now and then, so their starting center would miss over a third of the season, assuming all those games can be played without postponements.

Nurkic’s absence will also cost him a $1.25MM bonus, as we outlined earlier today. In order to earn that bonus, he needed to appear in at least 62 games, which won’t happen.

With Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins (ankle) on the shelf, Portland figures to lean more heavily on big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. The Blazers have an open spot on their 15-man roster, as well as an open two-way contract slot, so they could consider signing another center for depth purposes.

Harden On Rockets Exit: “I Wasn’t Disrespectful To Anyone”

Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins described James Harden‘s comments and behavior during his final days in Houston as “disrespectful.” However, speaking today to reporters for the first time since being traded to the Nets, Harden disagreed with that assessment.

“I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone,” Harden said on Friday, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “Those guys, they just got there, to Houston. I’ve been there a very long time. I’ve been through all the ups and downs with that organization. And I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone.

“I just made a comment that the team as a whole wasn’t good enough to compete for a title. The stage of my career, where I am now, that’s what I would love. So, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to anybody, especially the organization. I’m excited to be here in Brooklyn, excited for a new start.”

Harden did express some regrets about the way his tenure in Houston ended, noting that there were “some things I feel like were out of my character,” but didn’t identify any specific comments or actions that he regretted, Feigen notes.

Harden’s desire to be traded by the Rockets was reported all the way back in November and dominated headlines for nearly two months, but NBA rules prevented him from publicly discussing his trade request until now — doing so would have resulted in a fine. Asked about it today, the former MVP explained that he became motivated to move on following the Rockets’ playoff loss to the Lakers over the summer.

“After the bubble, after that loss, I wanted to re-evaluate my career, the team, where the organization was going,” Harden said, according to Feigen. “You look from top to bottom, the general manager (Daryl Morey) leaving, (head coach) Mike D’Antoni leaving, to reevaluating our personnel and seeing if we had enough to compete with the best teams in this league, as time went on, as free agency and things like that started to go on, I felt like we didn’t have a chance.”

Having decided that he wanted out of Houston, Harden confirmed today that the Nets were atop his wish list, though he said that list featured a handful of other teams as well. The 31-year-old praised the Rockets for working with him to find an appropriate deal and making sure he ended up in a favorable landing spot.

“They worked with me, as bad as it might’ve looked from the outside, and they made sure I ended up here, so much credit to them and (I’m) very, very appreciative,” Harden said, per Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

Harden issued a farewell to Rockets fans with a post on Instagram earlier today, writing that the organization and the city of Houston “has given me everything I could ask for and more.”

NBA Postpones Two Wizards/Cavaliers Games

Two more upcoming Wizards games won’t be played as scheduled, according to the NBA. The league announced today in a press release that the Wizards/Cavaliers games on the schedule for Sunday (January 17) and Monday (January 18) have been postponed due to health and safety protocols.

The games are being pushed back because the Wizards don’t have the required minimum of eight players available. A report this morning indicated that the team has had five players test positive for COVID-19 this week. Others are believed to be self-isolating as well due to the league’s contact tracing protocols.

These are the third and fourth consecutive postponements for the Wizards, who didn’t have enough players available to face the Jazz on Wednesday night or the Pistons tonight.

The next game on the club’s schedule is next Wednesday at Charlotte. It’s possible some players currently in the contact tracing protocols could be cleared by then, giving Washington enough players to avoid a fifth straight postponement. We’ll have to wait to see how the next few days play out though.

The NBA has now had to postpone a dozen games this season, including 11 since Sunday. We’re keeping tabs on the full list of postponements right here.

Kyrie Irving Fined, Loses Game Checks For Violating COVID-19 Protocols

Nets star Kyrie Irving has been fined $50K for violating the NBA’s protocols related to the coronavirus, the league announced today in a press release.

According to the announcement, the violation occurred when Irving attended a private indoor party last weekend. Presumably, this was the event – believed to be a family birthday party – captured on the video that surfaced online earlier this week. The league’s protocols prohibit players from attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people and from entering bars, lounges, or clubs.

While $50K isn’t a substantial loss for a player earning $33.46MM this season, the NBA also announced that Irving has been subject to a five-day quarantine period this week for his protocol violation, making him eligible to rejoin the Nets on Saturday, assuming he doesn’t record a positive COVID-19 test. He’ll forfeit salary for the games he missed during that quarantine period, according to the league.

Since the Nets’ Tuesday and Wednesday games happened during his quarantine period, Irving will be docked two game checks, Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms (Twitter link). As recently reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), each game missed due to a COVID-19 protocol violation costs a player 1/81.6th of his salary.

In Irving’s case, the result is about $410K per game in forfeited salary. Taking into account his fine and the two games he missed this week, Irving’s violation will cost him a total of approximately $870K.

Prior to this protocol violation, Irving had been away from the Nets for personal reasons, but it sounds like his leave is coming to an end. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Irving is expected to play for Brooklyn on Saturday as long as he’s cleared.

Wolves Expected To Re-Engage With Rockets On P.J. Tucker

Now that the Rockets have moved James Harden, there’s an expectation that the team will be more open to trading P.J. Tucker as well. A report earlier this week indicated that multiple teams are asking about Tucker, and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic says the Timberwolves are among the clubs expected to be in the hunt for the veteran forward.

The Wolves, who reportedly inquired on Tucker during the offseason, have been monitoring his situation in Houston since before the draft and have maintained contact with the Rockets since then, according to Krawczynski.

Minnesota’s president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked in Houston’s front office before joining the Wolves in 2019, though it remains to be seen whether his friendly relationship with the Rockets’ top decision-makers will help grease the wheels for a potential deal. As Krawczynski points out, Tucker’s versatility and his $8MM expiring contract will make him a logical trade target for several contenders.

Still, the Wolves look like an especially good fit for Tucker, given their lack of reliable options at the power forward spot. Rosas himself has acknowledged that the team could use an upgrade at the four, as Krawczynski relayed earlier in the week.

“The power forward position is probably one of the areas where we have the most questions right now,” Rosas said. “Part of it is there’s some young guys there and we’re trying to get to a good fit. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if we’re not trying to improve and get better and address our needs.”

Having opted for a Harden package loaded with draft picks and swaps, the Rockets would likely prioritize draft assets again in talks for Tucker and would presumably attempt to land a first-round pick. That may reduce the Wolves’ chances, according to Krawczynski, who points out that Minnesota has already traded away a top-three protected 2021 first-rounder and isn’t in a great position to be selling off more picks for a 35-year-old on an expiring deal.

Even if the Rockets do intend to move Tucker, there’s no rush to do so right away, as the trade deadline isn’t until March 25. While we wait to see which other teams might be in the mix for the former Texas Longhorn, it’s worth noting that the Nuggets weren’t among the teams to inquire as of Wednesday night, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link).

Five Wizards Players Have Tested Positive For COVID-19

The Wizards are now up to five players who have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Shams Charania and Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A report on Thursday indicated that a third Wizards player had returned a positive COVID-19 test, so two more players have since joined that group. It’s unclear exactly how many other players on the roster have been affected by the NBA’s contact tracing protocols.

The Wizards’ home game vs. Utah on Wednesday was postponed due to the team’s lack of available players, and tonight’s game in Detroit won’t be played as scheduled either.

At this point, it seems increasingly likely that the Wizards’ two games against Cleveland on Sunday and Monday will have to be postponed as well, though nothing has been officially announced on that front yet.

The NBA and its teams aren’t announcing which players test positive for COVID-19, so unless it’s reported in the coming days, we won’t get much clarity on which Wizards players are out until the team has to issue its next injury report. We do know that Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner were placed into the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday.

Jusuf Nurkic Fractures Right Wrist

The Trail Blazers announced during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the Pacers that Jusuf Nurkic will not return to the court, having suffered a right wrist fracture (Twitter link).

While it’s not 100% clear how the injury occurred, Nurkic appeared to come up holding his wrist after a defensive possession in which he swiped at the ball with his right hand, blocked a Myles Turner shot attempt, and then fell to the floor (video link via NBC Sports Northwest).

The Blazers haven’t offered much info yet on the severity of Nurkic’s injury, how it’ll be treated, or how much time he might miss. However, it seems safe to assume that he’ll be sidelined for the foreseeable future, whether or not he requires surgery on his wrist.

It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Portland’s 26-year-old starting center, who missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury. This season, Nurkic had been averaging 10.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 11 games (23.6 MPG) entering Thursday’s action.

With Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins (ankle) on the shelf, the team figures to lean more heavily on big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. The Blazers have an open spot on their 15-man roster, as well as an open two-way contract slot, so they could consider signing another center for depth purposes.