Grizzlies-Blazers latest NBA coronavirus postponement

Los Angeles (AFP) –

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Memphis' NBA game at the Portland Trail Blazers scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed with the Grizzles depleted by coronavirus contact tracing, the league said.

"Because of ongoing contact tracing within the Grizzlies, the team will not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with the scheduled game against the Trail Blazers," the NBA said at the statement.

The Grizzlies announced on Sunday that Jonas Valanciunas was sidelined after entering the league's Covid-19 health and safety protocols. He missed Memphis' victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Wednesday's game between the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets had already been postponed, the Wizards missing a fifth straight game in an eight-day span as they remained unable to put eight players in uniform.

Overall, 16 games have been postponed since the NBA season was launched on December 22, 15 of them since January 10.

The league triumphantly concluded it's pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 campaign in a quarantine bubble in Orlando, but this season teams are hosting games in their home arenas as the United States continues to grapple with Covid-19.

ESPN reported Wednesday the league had advised teams it would station security officers near midcourt to remind players they should not hug or exchange handshakes, or engage in lengthy conversations with opposing players before or after games.

The league had already beefed up some protocols, such as requiring players to wear masks whenever they return to the bench area during games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league would not try to jump the queue to have players vaccinated before priorty groups including health care workers, the elderly and those with medical conditions.

However, he said Tuesday that the league was now discussed having players, the majority of whom are African American, receiving the vaccine as a way of promoting its use in the Black community.

"There have been discussions," Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico.

"In the African American community, there's been enormously disparate impact from Covid ... but now, somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance (to vaccinations) in the African American community for understandable historical reasons. ... If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated."