76ers vs. Thunder Postponed Amid Philadelphia's COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2021

The Philadelphia 76ers' lhalf-court logo is shown before an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The NBA postponed Sunday's game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

"Because of contact tracing within the Sixers, the team does not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with the scheduled game against the Thunder," the league said in a statement.

The Sixers were in action Saturday, and nine players featured in a 106-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Multiple reporters provided more context:

This is Philadelphia's first postponement of the season, which obscures how much the team has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Head coach Doc Rivers told reporters earlier this month he didn't think his squad should compete because of how many players were absent. In a 115-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 9, seven members of the Sixers featured.

The problem isn't isolated to the Sixers, as the NBA has had to postpone a number of games. The situation has already reached a point where some wonder if the league should put the regular season on hold to let players who tested positive recover and exit the health and safety protocols.

However, ESPN's Baxter Holmes spoke to a group of team health officials and executives who don't expect a leaguewide shutdown or a return to a controlled environment like the one utilized at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

"The officials reaffirmed faith in the NBA's protocols and say that issues were expected as the league navigates its first month outside a bubble, especially with cases spiking across the United States," Holmes reported.

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The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on Jan. 11 that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had spoken to a contingent of team governors, front-office personnel and National Basketball Players Association representatives in late December.

During the meeting, Silver said January would be "the worst month" with regard to playing amid the pandemic and that the NBA was "optimistic about improvements in February ... after we get through the darkest days."