Why the NBA made the 76ers play despite a team Covid-19 outbreak

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said his team shouldn’t be playing with a roster limited by Covid-19, but the game against the Nuggets went on anyway. The Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets matchup scheduled for Saturday afternoon was played despite Philly’s roster being decimated by Covid-19 cases and the necessary contact tracing as a result. Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t believe his team should be playing, but the game went on because the Sixers technically had eight players available for the game. Denver went on to win the game, 115-103.
The 76ers only met the minimum of having eight available players because injured forward Mike Scott dressed for the game. The Sixers would have had to forfeit if Scott wasn’t listed as available. Rivers said he won’t play Scott in the game as he recovers from a knee injury. Instead, the Sixers will really only have seven players who can go.

The Sixers now have 8 players, including Mike Scott, who was just activated. Doc Rivers: “I can tell you there’s no way I’m gonna play him. I just don’t think he should play.”— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) January 9, 2021

Philadelphia’s Covid issues started when the team learned veteran guard Seth Curry tested positive for the virus during the start of the team’s game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. Curry was on the bench for the start of the game near teammates and coaches before leaving to isolate.
After Sixers players quarantined in New York, the team continued to test for Covid in the lead up to the game against Denver on Saturday afternoon. The following Sixers players were ruled out due to the league’s due to health and safety protocols:

Tobias Harris
Shake Milton
Matisse Thybulle
Vincent Poirier

Philadelphia is also without Terrance Ferguson (personal) and Furkan Korkmaz (groin). The Sixers are keeping star center Joel Embiid out with back tightness and co-star Ben Simmons out with knee soreness, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Rivers explained that Embiid and Simmons wouldn’t have been able to play the big minutes expected of them given their ailments.
Doc Rivers said the Sixers shouldn’t be playing
The Sixers head coach said his team shouldn’t be playing the game against Denver with such a limited rotation. If the Sixers only have seven players available, each player will have to average 34 minutes in the game.
Here are some of Rivers’ pre-game quotes before Sixers-Nuggets tipped off:

Rivers stressed potential fatigue as a problem with guys who aren’t in the rotation ramping up to 40+ minutes. Said with regards to Embiid’s back stiffness in an environment where he’d have to play the whole game: “It would be insane to play him tonight.” https://t.co/E9cQkY3UiV??? Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) January 9, 2021

Doc Rivers: “Dwight Howard is going to have to play point guard, and we’ll see how it goes.”— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) January 9, 2021

Rivers’ #1 concern is the amount of minutes the 7 healthy players will be forced to play tonight. But he’s also worried about the covid health concerns, too. “Listen, covid-wise, I’m 59 years old. And Dan’s (Burke) older,” Rivers said. “At least I think. He looks older.”— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) January 9, 2021

Rivers just said to ask Nuggets coach Mike Malone if he could sit out 7-8 of his own players. “That would be really nice of him”— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) January 9, 2021

The Sixers’ starting lineup included three rookies
Rookies Dakota Mathias, Tyrese Maxey, and Isaiah Joe each started for the Sixers against Denver. Here’s a look at Philadelphia’s full starting lineup for the game.

Sixers starters: GreenDakota MathiasHowardIsaiah JoeTyrese Maxey— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) January 9, 2021

Philadelphia’s two active bench players were Paul Reed and Tony Bradley.
Maxey led Philly in scoring with 39 points.
The NBA should have postponed the game
The league was always going to have problems managing Covid after deciding to play this season in home arenas rather than in a bubble. As the pandemic continues to be more deadly than ever, teams traveling from city to city and potentially spreading the virus to workers who help put the games on remains a major problem.
The NBA wants teams to play games if they have eight available players, but the league also left days open on the schedule at the end of the season in case games needed to be rescheduled. With only seven Philadelphia players capable of competing against Denver, the league should have stepped in and postponed the game for a later date.
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