Contact tracing issues involving the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards forced the NBA to postpone three more games Wednesday, raising the leaguewide total from this week alone to eight.
The NBA also revealed Wednesday that 16 players — by far the most in a one-week period since training camps started — returned positive COVID-19 tests between Jan. 6 and Tuesday. With 497 players tested, that reflects a positivity rate of 3.2%.
Phoenix’s home game Wednesday against Atlanta was called off, as was the Suns’ home game with Golden State on Friday. Also called: Friday’s game where the Wizards would have gone to Detroit. The reason in all three cases was the same, that the Suns and Wizards wouldn’t have enough players cleared to participate.
“Obviously, it’s not the typical NBA season that we’re all accustomed to,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said Wednesday. “But we’ll get through it.”
That Suns-Hawks game was the third on Wednesday’s schedule to be called, joining Utah at Washington and Orlando at Boston. It also marks the second consecutive time that a team ran into issues after playing in Washington; the Miami Heat lost eight players to COVID-related issues following their road game against the Wizards on Saturday.
“Not ideal,” Hawks guard Kevin Huerter tweeted, shortly after the postponement of the game in Phoenix was announced.
Also not playing Wednesday: Zion Williamson, ruled out by the New Orleans Pelicans for their game at the Los Angeles Clippers because of the league’s health and safety protocols. In his case, Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said, the issue was an inconclusive test.
Contact-tracing issues can also be triggered when a player is found to have been, or possibly have been, exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19. That has been the issue for a number of players in recent days, excluding the 16 new positives.
The latest postponements push the total overall this season to nine because of virus issues. The Suns, Hawks, Heat, Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams dealing with significant roster depletion in recent days because of either positive tests, tracing — which indicates if someone has been in an unsafe amount of contact with a person who tested positive — or both.
Postponed games are likely to be rescheduled in the second half of the season. The league has only released schedules through March 4, saying earlier this season that the second half would also include “any games postponed ... that can reasonably be added to the second half schedule.”