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Half the Team Had the Coronavirus. The Wizards Are Still Recovering.
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Bertans had finally been freed from isolation while his teammates were gone, returning home to his wife and daughter. His first practice was an ordeal — “I could definitely tell that I hadn’t done anything for almost two weeks,” he said — and then he missed all seven of his shots in a 16-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 29.“The feel for the game was the biggest struggle,” he said.Smith was having his own problems. The league uses something called cycle threshold, a measure of the amount of virus in the body, to help determine whether a player can be cleared to return. Generally, that number needs to be at least 30, with higher numbers implying less of the virus. A week after first testing positive, Smith was registering cycle threshold values of only 28, he said.Smith would run up the stairs of his home to gauge his fitness.“Everybody is different, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a situation where I couldn’t breathe,” Smith said.His teammates and coaches were rooting for him from afar.“It reminded me of the Winter Olympics,” Sheppard said. “Americans don’t know anything about these sports, but within two days we’re all experts. It was the same thing with Ish: ‘Come on, Ish! You’ve got to get above 30!’”Smith knew he was fortunate, he said. He had medical supervision. He was undergoing daily testing. His symptoms were never serious. He thought of his siblings, who are teachers, and countless others living through the pandemic without that type of support.“I’ve got no complaints,” he said. “You just have to pick it up and keep it moving.”Smith returned on Jan. 31, scoring 13 points in a dramatic win over the Nets. Brooks celebrated with a can of White Claw.The Wizards have had more lows than highs, going 3-8 since their patchwork season resumed. Practice time has come at a premium. There is no playbook for a pandemic, Brooks said, and he can only hope that his players have endured the worst of it, and that they can build some chemistry. But there are no guarantees, not this season.
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In the N.B.A., Money Speaks Louder Than Stars
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David Stern was in his final full season as the N.B.A. commissioner in 2012-13 when LeBron James won his fourth and most recent Most Valuable Player Award. Eight years later, James is in his 18th season and a leading candidate in the race to receive the Maurice Podoloff trophy from Commissioner Adam Silver.James can still do many things in his supposed twilight years with the Los Angeles Lakers. He remains the game’s most high-profile figure and, by playing at an M.V.P. level at age 36, is constantly reminding us that basketball has its own answer to the N.F.L.’s time-defying Tom Brady.It would appear not even James, though, can stop the N.B.A. from staging an All-Star Game next month in Atlanta.He couldn’t have come out much stronger against the concept than he did late last week, blasting the N.B.A.’s plans to stuff three days’ worth of All-Star events into a one-shot Turner Sports extravaganza on March 7. League and players’ union officials are nonetheless expected to soon announce that those plans have been locked in.It is reminiscent of how the season started — and another illustration of the louder-than-ever say held by the N.B.A.’s broadcast partners at such challenging financial times for the sport’s various stakeholders.Players largely left the summer bubble expecting the 2020-21 season to be contested exclusively in 2021, starting no earlier than January and perhaps as late as March. Opening night was then suddenly moved up to Dec. 22 at the strong urging of the league’s two national broadcast partners, who wanted to preserve two valuable television properties: Disney’s five-game Christmas slate on ESPN and ABC, and Turner’s traditional Tuesday night doubleheader to start the season.As James said in a postgame session with reporters on Thursday, many players assumed there would not be an All-Star Game during the extended break scheduled from March 5 to 10. Those players were surprised when it emerged in late January that the league and the union were working on a one-night-only window for All-Star festivities that would enable TNT to air the event, the jewel of its annual N.B.A. coverage.The 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago, for example, attracted 7.3 million viewers for TNT. That was better than the viewing figures for any of the Christmas games on Disney-owned channels.The big difference between December and now is that no one has pinpointed the financial impact of a modified All-Star program. League officials maintain that it’s difficult to project figures for All-Star festivities in terms of basketball-related income, which owners and players split nearly 50/50. The New York Times was among the news outlets to report in December that starting the season before Christmas, rather than in mid-January, was expected to generate at least $500 million more in revenue.Two estimates I was provided by industry insiders pegged the value of Turner’s All-Star coverage at $30 million to $60 million — money that the N.B.A. would have to make up to Turner later if the game was not played. You can safely assume that the overall potential loss (with B.R.I. added) would be much higher, given the way players of considerable stature, such as Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers, have talked about what’s motivating the league to take the health risk of bringing together the top players during the coronavirus pandemic.“It is what it is at this point,” Leonard said. “We all know why we’re playing it — there’s money on the line.”Leonard seemed to grasp better than most that, 11 months into the N.B.A.’s new reality (and the world’s), trade-offs for the big picture are a constant.Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Nets’ James Harden are among the marquee players who have joined James in publicly questioning the All-Star plans, contributing to an uncharacteristic swirl of pushback for Silver from the league’s stars. Phoenix’s Chris Paul, the players’ association president, said in response that “guys are entitled to their feelings” — but Paul insisted that “decisions are being made” with “the full body of players in mind.”Translation: More than 400 players who won’t be invited to participate in the resuscitated All-Star gathering are counting on those who do take part to ensure TNT can proceed with its usual showcase event and insulate them from a costly financial hit.The league’s deals with Disney and TNT, worth $24 billion over nine years, do not expire until after the 2024-25 season, but it is never too soon in coronavirus times to re-establish oneself as an exemplary partner. The N.B.A., for all the criticism it has absorbed in recent days, is certainly on a winning streak there, from conceiving a bubble to safely usher the 2019-20 season to a conclusion … to engineering that bubble at Walt Disney World as opposed to Las Vegas or any other interested city … to this All-Star save.I’m told Phoenix was proposed as a potential venue for March 7. Holding it in Atlanta instead would put the game in TNT’s backyard, eliminating travel for its coverage crews.Yet it’s the opposite for the participants, and that’s the unsettling part — even after the N.B.A. announced zero positives in leaguewide coronavirus testing last week. The All-Stars face extra travel to a function steeped in fraternization between players at a time when teams, in their day-to-day existence, are strongly discouraged from postgame interactions of any kind. There’s seemingly no way to avoid describing this game — an exhibition — as risky.The All-Star Game “has been an important tradition throughout the history of the league and remains one of our top events for global fan interest and engagement,” Mike Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said in a statement to The Times last week. “The health and safety of everyone involved is at the forefront of our discussions with the players’ association.”The league and the union have been adamant that the game will feature a significant philanthropic component to benefit historically Black colleges and universities as well as Covid-19 relief efforts. The broadcast itself is certain to amplify a league campaign that urges fans to take the coronavirus vaccine as it becomes available and features Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Gregg Popovich in commercial spots.Murmurs persist that some All-Stars will seek to opt out of playing what has been a mandatory assignment for those selected, according to the league’s bylaws, but all signs indicate the game will go ahead.James surely knows it, too. Don’t forget that, dismayed as he was about a game that “I don’t even understand” and a trip that will take 24 All-Stars “into one city that’s open,” he also said he would be there if selected.Even for the face of the N.B.A.’s player empowerment era, even when he’s playing Brady-esque ball, there are limits.You ask; I answer. Every week in this space, I’ll field three questions posed via email at marcstein-newsletter@nytimes.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as the city you’re writing in from, and make sure “Corner Three” is in the subject line.(Responses may be lightly edited or condensed for clarity.)Q: Who you got? Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant? Or LeBron James and Anthony Davis? I know you’ve covered both duos. I bet you go with Kobe and Shaq. — Chris Williams (Laguna Beach, Calif.)Stein: We’ve seen James and Davis together for less than a season and a half. As fearsome as they look as a tag team, even after winning a championship on their first try and quickly establishing the Lakers as this season’s title favorites, I can’t put them ahead of the twosome at the center of the N.B.A.’s last three-peat.Not yet.But I reserve the right to change this vote down the road.For all their success together, O’Neal and Bryant had to settle for three titles in eight seasons. They dominated every aspect of the league for nearly a decade, with their drama as much as with the on-court havoc they caused, but the partnership was dissolved in acrimony when the Lakers decided it was untenable to keep orbiting the team around O’Neal and traded him to Miami in July 2004. There will always be a sense that these two divorced prematurely and could have won more together.James and Davis so far have a harmony that O’Neal and Bryant scarcely achieved. It’s still the honeymoon phase, with no guarantee things stay this way, but the Lakers also have their two biggest stars under contract together through 2022-23. The outlook is rather rosy — as long as they stay healthy. (Davis, as we speak, is nursing some nagging discomfort in his right leg and foot.)It’s important to remember the circumstances when making your assessments. O’Neal hadn’t won an N.B.A. championship and was still reasonably young himself, at 24, when he was paired with Bryant, then the most ambitious teenager in basketball history. James and Davis not only have games that mesh together beautifully, as offensive fulcrum and defensive anchor, but they came together when they were clearly ready to team up.James is in the later stages of his career and, with his legacy secure, has willingly ceded a chunk of the spotlight to Davis that might have been much harder to share in his 20s. Davis couldn’t carry New Orleans to glory as the face of that franchise and has clearly reveled in the boost he gets from James’s presence to unlock his full potential.Q: Why did the Nets feel compelled to give away so much in the James Harden trade? Couldn’t this transaction have gone forward without including Cleveland and Jarrett Allen? — Tom Cartelli (Milford, N.J.)Stein: No chance.The three future first-round draft picks that the Nets parted with were the headliner trade assets they used to win the Harden sweepstakes, but they were not going to have any shot at constructing a workable deal without including both Caris LeVert and Allen. Rather than keep Allen, Houston routed him to the Cavaliers for another first-round pick (Milwaukee’s 2021 first-rounder) and to reduce the Rockets’ luxury-tax bill.Harden’s incoming $41,254,920 salary required the Nets to send out a minimum of $32,923,936 to make the salary-cap math work. Allen’s $3,909,902 salary didn’t make much of a dent into that figure, but combining him with another blossoming talent in LeVert at $16,203,704, those three first-round picks and the rights for Houston to swap first-rounders in four additional drafts enabled the Nets to outbid Philadelphia and Boston.Q: Given the potential voter fatigue with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo this season and Luka Doncic’s Mavericks off to a slow start, could we see someone in his 30s win the Most Valuable Player Award for the first time in 15 years? Steve Nash was the last to win the award in his 30s in 2006. — David Anderson (Raleigh, N.C.)Stein: You’re onto something for sure. Denver’s Nikola Jokic (26 on Feb. 19) and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (27 in March) are at the forefront of the M.V.P. race with roughly one-third of the regular season complete, but there are more 30-somethings in the conversation than players in their 20s.The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (36), Golden State’s Stephen Curry (33 in March) and the Nets’ Kevin Durant (32) would be in my top five with Jokic and Embiid if voting ended today.The duel between Curry (57 points) and Doncic (42 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds) Saturday night in a 134-132 victory for Dallas was one of the games of the season so far — and reminded you that Curry is back to his best after missing almost all of last season with a broken hand.(The Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, in case you’re wondering, turns 30 in June.)17The Western Conference-leading Utah Jazz (20-5) are making 17 3-pointers per game — which puts them on pace for a league record. The 2018-19 Houston Rockets made 16.1 3s per game to set the record, according to Stathead.70.2For all the justified praised we heaped on the Lakers’ Anthony Davis last week for how perfectly he complemented LeBron James, there’s no avoiding one prime area of slippage in his game this season: Davis is shooting a career-worst 70.2 percent from the free-throw line. He shot a career-best 84.6 percent last season.2Jeremy Lin of the Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State’s affiliate) and Nik Stauskas of the Raptors 905 (Toronto’s affiliate) were the only two N.B.A. veterans allocated to the G League team of their choosing via the N.B.A. developmental league’s new veteran selection rule — which is also known unofficially as “the Jeremy Lin rule.” The G League’s 20th season opens Wednesday with 18 teams playing in a restricted-access zone at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., similar to last summer’s N.B.A. bubble.5We’re down to just five teams that have not faced a game postponement through the season’s opening seven weeks. That group includes both New York teams (Knicks and Nets), both Los Angeles teams (Lakers and Clippers) and Toronto (which is playing its home games in Tampa, Fla.).3Atlanta appears poised host to the All-Star Game for the third time. It was the host city in 1978 (when my beloved Randy Smith of the Buffalo Braves won most valuable player honors) and in 2003.Hit me up anytime on Twitter (@TheSteinLine) or Facebook (@MarcSteinNBA) or Instagram (@thesteinline). Send any other feedback to marcstein-newsletter@nytimes.com.
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NBA Says Teams Must Play the National Anthem
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The N.B.A. is again requiring teams to play the national anthem before games, after the Dallas Mavericks had stopped playing the anthem through their first 13 preseason and regular-season home games.“With N.B.A. teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy,” Mike Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said Wednesday.The league office abruptly changed its stance on the matter after giving Mark Cuban, the Mavericks’ franchise owner, permission going into the season to stop playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before home games. All but 11 of the N.B.A.’s 30 teams are still playing home games without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the league had said that teams were permitted “to run their pregame operations as they see fit” because of “the unique circumstances of this season.”The Mavericks, at Cuban’s insistence, seized on that latitude to break from a longstanding tradition in American sports and remove the anthem from their pregame program. The change went largely unnoticed until an article by The Athletic called attention to it after the team’s first game with fans in attendance, which was on Monday night. Dallas gave 1,500 free tickets to frontline workers who had received at least the first of two required shots of the Covid-19 vaccine.Cuban told The New York Times on Wednesday that the Mavericks would follow the policy immediately and play the anthem before that night’s nationally televised home game against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Center.“We are good with it,” Cuban said.Most players and coaches regularly knelt during the national anthem to protest social injustice while the league played out the last three months of the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., last summer. Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, said in December that the league did not intend to enforce its rule that players stand for the national anthem. The league’s 29 teams apart from Dallas had mostly played recorded versions of the anthem before games.“I recognize that this is a very emotional issue on both sides of the equation in America right now, and I think it calls for real engagement rather than rule enforcement,” Silver said in December.In a statement released through the Mavericks, Cuban said: “We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.“Going forward, our hope is that people will take the same passion they have for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them.”Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, on Wednesday called for Cuban to sell the franchise to “some Texas patriots” and said that the Mavericks’ decision not to play the anthem was “a slap in the face to every American” and “an embarrassment to Texas.” Cuban has also sparred publicly with Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who has been critical of Cuban’s support of N.B.A. players’ kneeling during the anthem.The Mavericks never announced the policy to stop playing the anthem but quietly let visiting teams know on game days that their players could expect to proceed straight to the introductions of starting lineups.New Orleans Pelicans Coach Stan Van Gundy expressed support on social media for the Mavericks’ original decision to forgo playing the anthem.“This should happen everywhere,” Van Gundy posted on Twitter before the league said the anthem would again be required. “If you think the anthem needs to be played before sporting events, then play it before every movie, concert, church service and the start of every work day at every business. What good reason is there to play the anthem before a game?”For 16 years when Donald Carter owned the Mavericks, singers performed “God Bless America” before home games at the old Reunion Arena. The Mavericks began playing the national anthem after the team was purchased by Ross Perot Jr. on May 1, 1996. Cuban bought the Mavericks in January 2000.
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Mark Cuban Says He Told Mavericks to Stop Playing Anthem
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Mark Kuban เจ้าของ Dallas Mavericks กล่าวเมื่อคืนวันอังคารว่าเขาได้สั่งให้ทีมหยุดเล่นเพลงชาติก่อนเกมในบ้านในฤดูกาลนี้ "มันเป็นการตัดสินใจของฉันและฉันได้ทำในเดือนพฤศจิกายน" บานกล่าว เขาปฏิเสธที่จะแสดงความคิดเห็นเพิ่มเติม Mavericks ไม่ได้ประกาศนโยบายใหม่ แต่คิวบาได้รับอนุญาตให้นำไปใช้เนื่องจาก NBA อนุญาตให้ทีมดำเนินการก่อนเกมได้ตามที่เห็นสมควร "เนื่องจาก" สถานการณ์ที่ไม่เหมือนใครในฤดูกาลนี้ "ตามโฆษกของลีก เกือบสองในสามของ 30 ทีมในลีกยังไม่อนุญาตให้แฟนเกมในบ้านเนื่องจากเอ็นบีเอต้องดิ้นรนกับความซับซ้อนในการพยายามจัดฤดูกาล 72 เกมท่ามกลางการแพร่ระบาดของไวรัสโคโรนา เป็นทีมเดียวในลีกที่ละทิ้งเพลงของเกมเหย้าการตัดสินใจครั้งแรกที่ประกาศโดย The Athletic ทีมอื่น ๆ ยังคงเล่นเพลงสรรเสริญพระบารมีในเวอร์ชันที่บันทึกไว้ กฎของลีกกำหนดให้ผู้เล่นยืนระหว่างเพลงชาติตั้งแต่ทศวรรษ 1980 แต่อดัมซิลเวอร์ผู้บัญชาการ NBA กล่าวเมื่อเดือนธันวาคมว่ากฎจะไม่ถูกบังคับใช้อย่างเคร่งครัดในฤดูกาลนี้ ลีกยังเลือกที่จะไม่ใช้กฎในช่วงเริ่มต้นฤดูกาล 2019-20 ในสภาพแวดล้อมฟองสบู่ที่ Walt Disney World ในฟลอริดาซึ่งผู้เล่นหลายคนเลือกที่จะคุกเข่าระหว่างเพลงสรรเสริญพระบารมีเพื่อแสดงการสนับสนุนการเคลื่อนไหวของ Black Lives Matter และแสดงการต่อต้าน การเหยียดเชื้อชาติอย่างเป็นระบบและความอยุติธรรมทางสังคมในสหรัฐอเมริกา "ฉันยอมรับว่านี่เป็นปัญหาที่สะเทือนใจทั้งสองด้านของสมการในอเมริกาในตอนนี้และฉันคิดว่ามันต้องใช้ความมุ่งมั่นที่แท้จริงมากกว่าการบังคับใช้กฎ" ซิลเวอร์กล่าวในเดือนธันวาคมเพลงไม่ได้เล่นที่ American Airlines Center ในดัลลัสก่อนที่จะไม่มีเกมปรีซีซั่นหรือเกมเหย้า 13 เกมสำหรับ Mavericks ในฤดูกาลนี้ ด้วยชัยชนะเหนือมินนิโซตาในคืนวันจันทร์ดัลลัสกลายเป็น 1 ใน 11 ทีมในลีกที่ช่วยลดฝูงชน - พนักงานสุขภาพและอาหารแนวหน้า 1,500 คนรวมถึงตำรวจนักดับเพลิงและเจ้าหน้าที่ฉุกเฉินอื่น ๆ อย่างไรก็ตามนี่ไม่ใช่ครั้งแรกในประวัติศาสตร์ของแฟรนไชส์ที่สโมสรปฏิเสธที่จะเล่นเพลงชาติก่อนการแข่งขัน ในช่วง 16 ปีแรกของการดำรงอยู่ของสโมสรเมื่อโดนัลด์คาร์เตอร์เป็นเจ้าของ "God Bless America" ​​ได้รับการร้องแทนก่อนเกมเหย้าที่สนามเรอูนียงเก่า Mavericks เริ่มเล่นเพลงชาติหลังจากทีมถูกซื้อโดย Ross Perot-Jr ฤดูกาลที่ -20 คิวบากล่าวว่าเขาจะสนับสนุนผู้เล่นที่คุกเข่าระหว่างเพลงสรรเสริญพระบารมีเพื่อเป็นการประท้วง “ ถ้าพวกเขายกเข่าขึ้นและแสดงความเคารพฉันก็จะภูมิใจในตัวพวกเขา” คูบานกล่าว "เราหวังว่าจะได้เข้าร่วมกับพวกเขา" ชาวคิวบาไม่ได้ร่วมกับ Mavericks ไปขึ้นบอลลูนที่ Disney World แต่เขากล่าวผ่าน Twitter ไม่นานหลังจากปรากฏตัวใน ESPN: "เพลงชาติของตำรวจในประเทศนี้อยู่เหนือการควบคุม หากคุณต้องการบ่นให้บ่นกับเจ้านายของคุณและถามว่าทำไมพวกเขาไม่เล่นเพลงชาติทุกวันก่อนเริ่มงาน “
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Growing Chorus of N.B.A. Stars Boos League’s Virus Strategy
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On Jan. 12, the league and the players’ union announced new health protocols to deal with a rash of game postponements. Among the new rules, players and staff have been directed to remain at their homes or hotels when on the road except for team activities and essential tasks. After a recent game between the Miami Heat and the Nets, a security official interrupted Nets guard Kyrie Irving’s attempt to exchange jerseys with the Heat’s Bam Adebayo — much to the bafflement of Irving. (Irving slipped a jersey to Adebayo after their next game two days later.)Others players have weighed in on the All-Star game as well. On Friday, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, who was selected to his first All-Star team last season, said: “I feel like, for the most part, they have done a great job of trying to keep us safe,” referring to the league, “though you can’t control everything. But I do understand the concerns about it, especially in Atlanta.”His teammate Kemba Walker, a four-time All Star, told reporters on Friday that he agreed with James.“He’s a smart man,” Walker said. “He’s been around. He’s a leader. A lot of things he says are correct. He feels the way he feels. I’m probably going to be on vacation.”Earlier in the week, De’Aaron Fox, the top guard on the Sacramento Kings, said holding the game would be “stupid.”“If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, then what’s the point of bringing the All-Star game back?” Fox told reporters. “Obviously, money makes the world go ’round so it is what it is.”For the moment, the N.B.A.’s virus-related game postponements have died down. The most recent one was on Monday, when the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets were supposed to play in Denver. Two days later, the league said in its weekly report that no new players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The week before there had been one case, a sharp reduction from the 27 reported over the two weeks prior. In January, several teams were missing multiple players because of infections and contact tracing, but now most teams are no longer missing anyone for that reason.N.B.A. players — like much of the country — are under enormous mental strain, as Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors said in a podcast interview that was posted on Friday. He said this season has been particularly difficult with longer days as a result of daily testing and restrictions in the league’s protocols.
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LeBron James Doesn’t Want an All-Star Game
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Chris Paul ประธานสมาคมบาสเก็ตบอลแห่งชาติและหนึ่งในเพื่อนเก่าแก่ของ James ที่ Phoenix Suns ได้รับการอธิบายว่าเป็นหนึ่งในผู้สนับสนุนที่แข็งแกร่งที่สุดของสุดสัปดาห์หนึ่งวันในแอตแลนตา - ทั้งในลีกและกับ The Alliance มุ่งมั่นที่จะ ตรวจสอบให้แน่ใจว่าเกมนี้ได้รับประโยชน์จากวิทยาลัยและมหาวิทยาลัยสีดำในอดีตและความพยายามบรรเทาทุกข์ของ Covid-19 อัปเดต 5 กุมภาพันธ์ 2021, 5:25 น. ETI ไม่ชัดเจนว่าแฟน ๆ จะได้รับการยอมรับหรือไม่ - แอตแลนตาเป็นหนึ่งใน 10 ทีมที่อนุญาตให้มีฝูงชนลดลงในเกมเหย้าของพวกเขาหรือหากผู้เล่นที่ได้รับเลือกสำหรับ All-Stars จะมีวิธีการบางอย่าง เพื่อเลือกที่จะไม่เข้าร่วมหากพวกเขาไม่ต้องการเข้าร่วม ภายใต้สถานการณ์ปกติการเข้าร่วมเกมออลสตาร์เป็นสิ่งจำเป็นสำหรับผู้ที่เลือก เจมส์บอกว่าแม้จะจองไว้เขาจะอยู่ที่นั่นทั้งทางร่างกาย แต่ไม่ใช่ทางจิตใจ ในการกลับมาวิ่งหนี All-Star ชุดแรกซึ่งประกาศเมื่อวันพฤหัสบดีที่ผ่านมาเจมส์มีคะแนนโหวตสูงสุดเป็นอันดับสองในลีก (2,288,676) โดยมีเพียงเควินดูแรนท์แห่งอวน (2,302,705) "ฉันจะพูดแบบนี้: ถ้าพวกเขามีเกมแห่งดวงดาวนี้ไม่ว่าคุณจะเห็นด้วยกับมันหรือไม่ก็ตามลีกจะตรวจสอบให้แน่ใจว่ามันเสร็จสิ้นอย่างมีความรับผิดชอบและปลอดภัยและมันได้รับการพิสูจน์ซ้ำแล้วซ้ำเล่า" นักเก็ตกล่าว โค้ช Mike Malone ก่อนที่เดนเวอร์จะแพ้ Lakers หลังจากกระชับมาตรการความปลอดภัยอย่างมีนัยสำคัญในเดือนมกราคมและสร้างความระมัดระวังเพิ่มขึ้นเมื่อบังคับใช้หน้ากากการทดสอบโควิด -19 ในลีกเป็นไปในเชิงบวกในช่วงสองสัปดาห์ที่ผ่านมา NBA มีการประกาศผลการทดสอบเชิงบวกเพียงรายการเดียวหลังจากคะแนนบวก 27 คะแนนในสองสัปดาห์ก่อนหน้านี้ อย่างไรก็ตามลีกถูกบังคับให้เลื่อน 23 เกมในครึ่งแรกของตารางเนื่องจากการทดสอบเชิงบวกและขั้นตอนการติดตามสัญญาต่างๆซึ่งทำให้ทีมในเกมเหล่านี้ไม่มีข้อกำหนดขั้นต่ำสำหรับผู้เล่นแปดคนในเครื่องแบบ NBA เริ่มต้นฤดูกาลด้วยการปล่อยกำหนดการเพียงครึ่งเดียวเป็นครั้งแรกในประวัติศาสตร์ลีกโดยรู้ว่ามีแนวโน้มที่จะต้องเลื่อนเกมที่เลื่อนออกไปหลายเกมในช่วงครึ่งหลังหลังจากหยุดพัก 5-10 มีนาคม หากแผนการเริ่มต้นของลีกมีขึ้นทีมจะเล่นครบ 72 เกมในฤดูกาลปกติในเดือนพฤษภาคมตามด้วยรอบเพลย์ออฟ 4 รอบที่คาดว่าจะดำเนินต่อไปได้ดีในเดือนกรกฎาคม แต่จะสิ้นสุดก่อนที่จะเริ่มการแข่งขันกีฬาโอลิมปิกโตเกียวในวันที่ 23 กรกฎาคม ในบรรดาเป้าหมายของ NBA เมื่อเริ่มต้นฤดูกาลนี้จนถึงวันที่ 22 ธันวาคมคือการพยายามทำให้ฤดูกาล 2021-22 กลับมาสู่ช่วงเวลาที่คุ้นเคยมากขึ้นตั้งแต่เดือนตุลาคมถึงมิถุนายน
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