The league-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak hasn’t spared the Los Angeles Lakers, who faced the Dallas Mavericks without Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard and Malik Monk after they entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols earlier this week.
Horton-Tucker tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, resulting in L.A. cancelling the team practice later that day. Howard and Monk soon followed the Iowa State product in entering the protocols, which ruled all three players out of Wednesday’s wild win over the Mavericks.
More than 60 players have been under NBA-imposed quarantine over the last couple of weeks as the virus rapidly spread among teams in all major sports leagues. Head coach Frank Vogel said the outbreak has been a “frustrating” experience, particularly considering the franchise has been carefully following all the safety guidelines.
“It’s difficult. It’s frustrating. You want to be able to have everyone available, but that’s just not the nature of this virus,” Vogel said. “It’s affecting teams over multiple sports, really obviously even outside of sports, but multiple teams in our league, hockey is dealing with it, football is dealing with it.
“It’s just one of those things that we feel like as an organization, we’re doing everything the right way from a standpoint of we have a fully vaccinated team, we’re adhering to the protocols as best as we can and it’s still, we’re at the mercy of the virus. So you just have to have the mindset that this is the nature of this type of season and have a no-excuse mindset and go out and win games.”
Vogel said the testing ramped up in the NBA shortly after Thanksgiving but “returned to normal” since then. The coach added the day-to-day protocols the Lakers follow to limit the spread of the coronavirus haven’t changed much since the end of November either.
“It really hasn’t at all other than just continuing to remind guys to mask up as much as possible, the encouragement of the boosters and just having confidence that we have a fully vaccinated team,” Vogel said.
“We just try to adhere to the protocols in every way that we can and understand that sometimes there’s still gonna be breakthrough cases, which is what we had here.”
Vogel also explained that since the entire Lakers team is vaccinated, they only test players if someone turns back symptoms, which was Horton-Tucker in this case. Once his test came back positive, then everyone on the team had to get tested as well, which led to more players being played in health and safety protocols.
Vogel discusses NBA’s efforts to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks
The coronavirus outbreaks in the NBA raised questions over the 2021-22 season’s fate, at least in the near future. Vogel didn’t want to speculate over the consequences of the worsening COVID-19 situation in the league but said he had faith in the officials’ efforts to bring the situation under control.
“In terms of what’s next for the league, that’s probably above my paygrade,” he said.
“I think they’re evaluating day-to-day just like they’ve done since the pandemic hit. Everything is written in pencil, they’re doing a great job looking at every angle of it and trying to figure out what’s best to prevent spread and keep the game going. And I think they’re continuing to evaluate that.”
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