Two days after the Toronto Raptors beat the Houston Rockets with several coaches — including head coach Nick Nurse — and star forward Pascal Siakam sitting out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Raptors had their scheduled game Sunday night against the Chicago Bulls postponed because they couldn’t field the required eight players due to the league’s protocols.
Now, it is unclear if Toronto will be able to return to the court before the All-Star Break begins this coming weekend. The Raptors are scheduled to host the Detroit Pistons Tuesday before traveling to Boston to play the Celtics in their last game before the break.
There is, as of now, no word as to whether the Rockets’ game Sunday night in Houston against the Memphis Grizzlies will need to be postponed as a result of what’s happening with the Raptors.
After the announcement came out about Nurse, his coaching staff and Siakam all being unavailable for Friday’s game, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said that the NBA — which determines whether games will be played or not — ultimately determined that its testing program was rigorous enough that it would be safe for the Raptors and Rockets to play.
“We spoke to the NBA,” Webster said. “One way to think about it is, we get tested twice in the morning, and so if those tests come back negative, that kind of gives you the clearance to participate in activities that day, and then you can even do some testing later in the day if you’re concerned about it. I think once the negative tests came back this afternoon, I think that gave the NBA the comfort that at least for today, we’re clear.”
And while the Raptors went on to win Friday with veteran assistant Sergio Scariolo serving as head coach for the first time in an NBA game — after a decorated European and international career, including coaching at Real Madrid and, for more than a decade, leading the Spanish National Team — it turned out to only be clear for that game.
This will be the first test of the NBA’s attempt to try to get every team to 72 games played this season. The league released its schedule for the second half of the season this past week, one that saw several teams trying to jam a lot of games into a small number of days. In the cases of the Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, they are scheduled to play 40 games in 68 days.
Toronto, on other hand, was scheduled to play 36 games in 67 days. That number will now increase by at least one, and potentially as many as three. Although the NBA’s goal is to have every team play its scheduled 72 games, sources have said the league is cognizant of the fact that all 30 teams might not be able to reach that number. There is limited flexibility within the schedule to add games, or to add dates on the calendar, as the NBA wants to get the playoffs completed on time before the scheduled start of the Olympic Games in late July.
The league is going to hold a truncated All-Star Weekend in Atlanta a week from today, combining its Saturday night events (the skills challenge, 3-point contest and slam dunk contest) and the All-Star Game all into one night in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the league has tightened its health and safety protocols significantly over the past several weeks to attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus. For several weeks it had seemed to keep any team-wide outbreaks from occurring, but in the past two weeks the Spurs, Charlotte Hornets and now the Raptors have had multiple games postponed as a result of the virus.