Doc Rivers 'Very Concerned' About NBA Being Able to Play Full Season Amid COVID

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIDecember 1, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers questions a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Rivers is now head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. The first preseason camps of the coronavirus era are formally open, with teams limited for now to individual sessions with one coach and one player at one basket, all of this starting to happen as the pandemic continues raging and more and more Americans are testing positive.  “I’m very concerned if we can pull this off,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Toward the top of Doc Rivers' list of concerns as he takes over the Philadelphia 76ers has less to do with his team and more with the league as a whole.

The new Sixers head coach said Tuesday that he is "very concerned" about whether the league will be able to complete a full season during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"That's a concern, our guys' health is a concern, and that's tough," he said, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "As a coach, you want to go into your chief concerns being more basketball, and I think every coach's concern right now is probably non-basketball."

With three weeks to go until the NBA opens play on Dec. 22, players began working out at team facilities on Tuesday—less than two weeks after the draft and 10 days after the start of free agency. The league is attempting to play a 72-game season, but Rivers pointed to COVID-19 trouble in the NFL and NCAA to back up his concerns.

Rivers cited the ongoing postponement of the originally scheduled Thanksgiving game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the latter of which is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that has put more than 20 players on the league's reserve/COVID-19 list. Ohio State is enduring a similar situation, as the team paused activities Friday amid rising cases and is in danger of missing the Big Ten championship game if it's unable to play this week: 

"The difference in football is they play once a week. They have 1,000 players, so when you miss three or four players, you can still get away with it. If we miss three or four players, we're in trouble, especially with the amount of games [we play]. We're playing three to four games a week. So if one of our guys, or two of our key guys, get the virus and they miss 10 days to 14 days, that can be eight games. In a 72-game season, that can knock you out of the playoffs." 

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Rivers also expressed concern about the accelerated offseason, where he won't have time to learn as much about his new team and its players—which includes stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid alongside rookies Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed—before they hit the court three days before Christmas. 

The former Los Angeles Clippers head coach will first have to get through training camp before he can start to think about making it through the season.