Nuggets-Warriors off; Rivers, Malone enter NBA protocols

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THE NBA postponed another game for virus-related reasons Friday (PH time), raising the total to 11 pushed back so far this season while two more head coaches entered the league’s health and safety protocols.

Golden State’s game at Denver was postponed because the Nuggets—through a combination of injuries and a newly discovered outbreak of the virus—did not have the league-minimum eight players available to start the contest.

Had they played, the Nuggets would have also been without head coach Michael Malone. He went into the protocols on Friday, as did Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers. The 76ers used assistant coach Dan Burke in Rivers’ place for their game Friday against Brooklyn, a 110-102 Philadelphia win.

“A good team win,” Burke said. “Happy for Doc, and what he’s built.”

Rivers and Malone join the Los Angeles Lakers’ Frank Vogel, Chicago’s Billy Donovan, Phoenix’s Monty Williams, Portland’s Chauncey Billups and Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault as head coaches in the protocols.

Also in the protocols: around 123 players, along with an untold number of other staffers from around the league—including assistant coaches, broadcasters, referees, media relations personnel, public-address announcers, stat crew members, athletic trainers and more.

“This is mentally exhausting,” said Portland assistant Scott Brooks, who is filling in for Billups during his protocol stint.

For some teams, Friday brought progress. Toronto, which has been decimated by the virus in recent weeks, had most of its players back for practice.

Toronto guard Fred VanVleet was among the Raptors back on the floor, after recovering from Covid-19 for a second time. VanVleet’s tale this time wasn’t particularly different from many—not all, but many—players who have spoken about their virus experience in recent weeks, with the majority saying their symptoms weren’t particularly difficult to get through.

“This was different, different experience, different symptoms, different severity,” VanVleet said. “Obviously, it’ll probably take some time for me to work myself back, but it feels much more doable than it did last year. Hopefully the worst is behind me, personally. I can’t speak for anybody else but it wasn’t too bad this time around.”

When VanVleet returns to the court in Toronto on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, only 1,000 fans will be allowed there to see him. Officials in Ontario said they are capping crowd sizes for indoor venues at 1,000 spectators or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less, in response to virus outbreaks.

The Raptors expect that rule to be in place for at least three weeks. They, along with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, had recently seen their attendance capped at 50 percent because of virus concerns.

“I think it’s really a thing we don’t know much about,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said, speaking broadly about the virus, and before the new attendance rule for Ontario was announced. “I’m really, really a lot on the side of ‘I don’t think anybody knows how to stay away from it, how to catch it, how not to catch it, how to whatever, where they got it from, what happens.’ I think everybody’s in a guessing game on all that stuff. And I just try to do the best I can, as we all should.” (AP)

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