Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) If NBA locker rooms are cleared for coronavirus, are arenas next? Everyone is trying to find a balance when it comes to Coronavirus/COVID-19 precautions… well, not everyone. We all know and see the panicked people raiding your local COSTCO because they envision this is the first step in the zombie apocalypse, or whatever.
The NBA doesn’t want to be the business equivalent of the hysterical surburbanite stocking up on toilet paper, bottled water, Purell, Lysol wipes, surgical masks, and more toilet paper (for some reason) as they prepare for the pandemic end times YouTube conspiracy-theory nuts have convinced them is coming.
The league doesn’t want to be whistling past the graveyard, either.
Monday the NBA — along with the NHL, MLB, and MLS — announced they were closing locker rooms to the media before and after games for the time being. The league has said this is a temporary step. “After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice.”
Following that logic to its conclusion… it’s a health concern to have 20 or so extra people around a locker room for 45 minutes before a game, but it’s still okay to pack 20,000 people in a building for a few hours to watch a sporting event?
I’m not suggesting the NBA should start playing games in empty buildings, as has happened in Italian soccer (and elsewhere). The opposite, actually. I think that would be a dramatic overreaction. The CDC has said this should be a community-by-community decision. The canceling of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells — a big part of the tennis tour — makes some sense, that is an international event that descends upon a community where people go to retire (nearly 2/3 of the Indian Wells population is 65 or older, the people most at risk to the disease). I’ve been to that event multiple times, let me politely say the crowd there skews much older than your average sporting event.
NBA games do not skew older, and the cities where NBA games are played have seen some cases but not the kind of outbreaks that have hit places such as the Seattle area. We are not at the “close the arenas” place yet.
However, it feels like we are closer to that than people realize.
Of course, the league is going to be quicker to close locker rooms (the media does not make the teams money directly) compared to keeping out fans (who do generate income for the teams when they walk through the door), but they have started down the road to get there. The NBA is consulting with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other experts on the course of action. Still, as the number of cases inevitably grows in urban centers — where teams are located — the NBA and its franchises will have to make some tough choices.
Can you imagine NBA games being played in empty arenas? It’s happened during major East Coast weather events before. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer can envision it.
With the release of the memo about new coronavirus protocols in NBA arenas, I asked Bud if he could imagine playing in empty gyms around the country.
“I played Division III basketball, so I can definitely imagine it.”
— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) March 9, 2020
NBA teams had to submit plans to the league today on steps to limit player/fan exposure at games, and for potential next steps. The conference call between the league and teams comes on Wednesday. After that, we should have some clarity, as much as anyone does with this disease right now.
2) Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic were putting up highlight plays in win over the shorthanded Bucks. Milwaukee, on the second night of a back-to-back (and third road game in four nights), sat just about everyone you can name on that roster Monday night: Giannis Antetokounmpo (sprained knee), Eric Bledsoe (knee), George Hill (leg), Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, and Donte DiVincenzo were all out.
The Bucks deserve credit for keeping it close, but the Nuggets got the 109-95 win. What was impressive for Denver wasn’t just the win, it was the highlights.
Jamal Murray had a Dunk of the Year candidate — until the bad call against him.
There is no way that is an offensive foul. The Bucks’ D.J. Wilson was moving, not vertical, not in the restricted area, and Murray did not use his off arm to create space.
Nikola Jokic’s football passes have become a thing and he did it again on Monday night.
Here is Murray to Jarami Grant — and the officials let this one count.
It’s a good win for Denver as they try to chase down the Clippers for the two seed in the West and hold off the Jazz (who are now two games back).
3) Toronto beats Utah and Rudy Gobert is a frustrated man. There were a lot of things the Raptors did right visiting the Jazz on Monday night. One was getting Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka going, both of them had 28 points on the night.
Another thing Toronto did right was isolating Rudy Gobert when the Jazz had the ball. Gobert finished the night with six points on four shots, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley did a poor job of finding him in the flow of the offense.
Gobert wasn’t getting touches, then he got in a little tussle with OG Anuoby that somehow led to an ejection with less than a minute to go in the game (this is a soft ejection in my book).
Gobert was emotional and worked up after the game, saying in the future if he’s going to get ejected, he’s going to get his money’s worth (via ESPN).
“I don’t think it makes sense to me. But next time, I’ll do justice myself so the official can eject me for a reason,” Gobert told reporters…
Gobert said Anunoby “tried to elbow me in the face.”
“And the guy that’s getting paid to protect the other players didn’t do his job,” Gobert said, referring to the officials. “There was a little altercation, and we both got ejected when I didn’t do anything back, pretty much, which I don’t understand.”
Not sure I blame him.
Utah had righted the ship and won five in a row before this loss. They need all the wins they can get down the stretch, they sit as the Four seed in the West, now two games back of Denver for the three seed, but also just one game ahead of Oklahoma City and falling back to the five seed where they would start the playoffs on the road.