ESPN: NBA Execs Deny That Not Testing Everybody for COVID-19 Is Financially Motivated

Adam WellsDecember 23, 2021

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a ring ceremony before an NBA basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
AP Photo/Morry Gash

As the NBA continues to play games amid rising COVID-19 cases throughout the league, one common question being asked is about the testing protocols coming into the season. 

Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes, some people in the league feel not having daily testing was a cost-cutting measure even though league executives have denied that was the case:

"Privately, several team executives and team health officials believed not testing everyone was financially motivated, though league officials have disputed this characterization to ESPN. For now, when a team has a positive case, that team is encouraged—but not required —to test all players and potentially impacted staff to see how far the virus has spread; the same is recommended when a team faces another team that has detected a positive test."

The NBA has yet to institute daily testing as part of its health and safety protocols, with the league needing approval from the National Basketball Players Association to do so.

Wojnarowski reported last week that both sides did agree to elevated testing for a two-week period starting on Dec. 26, as well as an increase in daily testing and the use of protective facemasks.

There was also agreement on increased protocols that include gameday testing for fully vaccinated players who have not received a booster shot. 

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press reported in September that vaccinated players would "largely be back to business as usual" as part of the tentative health-and-safety protocol agreement between the NBA and NBPA coming into the season.

As of Dec. 1, Wojnarowski reported the NBA had a vaccination rate of 97 percent among its 450 players.  

One general manager told Wojnarowski and Holmes that not having daily testing "enabled us to make it this far in many ways."

Wojnarowski and Holmes also noted teams "privately argue that not all teams have followed the protocols as strictly as others, or that not all teams test as often as others" and "every team is out for themselves, trying to save their own seasons, fielding subpar ghost teams."

According to tracking data from CBS Sports' James Herbert, there are currently over 90 players in health and safety protocols and nine games have been postponed since Dec. 14 because of teams not having enough players available. 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN's Malika Andrews on Tuesday's episode of NBA Today that there are "no plans right now to pause the season" amid the growing number of players in the protocols. 

"We’ve, of course, looked at all the options, but frankly we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now," Silver said. 

The NBA Christmas Day schedule features five games, including a marquee matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The Nets have had three straight games postponed, including Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers.