Raptors' virus issues worsen, game vs. Bulls called off

Rockets Raptors Basketball

The Toronto Raptors’ issues with the coronavirus have worsened, prompting the NBA to call off their game scheduled for Sunday night against the Chicago Bulls.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, without disclosing how many, and that combined with ongoing contact-tracing issues meant they would not have the league-required eight players available to play.

Toronto played Friday without head coach Nick Nurse, several other assistants and staffers and starting forward Pascal Siakam because of virus-related issues. Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo coached the team to a win over Houston and had been in line to coach again Sunday.

The Raptors-Bulls game is the 30th to be postponed so far this season because of COVID-19 testing or contact tracing.

It was the first postponement this season for the Raptors, who are playing their home games in Tampa, Florida, because of coronavirus restrictions in Canada. Chicago has now had four of its games pushed back, all because its opponent for each of those contests was going through a virus-related problem.

The only teams that have not had a game postponed by virus issues so far this season are Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

All NBA players and coaches are tested daily. The Raptors used 12 players on Friday and had 14 listed as available to play that night. For Sunday’s game, Siakam was the only player who had been listed on Saturday’s injury report as out because of health and safety protocols — which indicates that results that came back on Saturday either showed more problems, or contact tracing showed that players had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and may have to quarantine.

About half the league’s teams are allowing a small number of fans into arenas for games, but testing protocols and other rules have been stiffened as the season has gone on in the interest of safety. The league has been able to play about 94% of its scheduled games so far this season, which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and some players have touted as some measure of success to this point.

“Hopefully, going forward, we can continue it," Miami forward Kelly Olynyk said Sunday. “Obviously, we'd love to see fans back in the arenas, travel, all that kind of stuff be permitted and allowed when it's safe to do so. But right now, we're still trying to get the games in as safely as we can."

Chicago had traveled to Tampa on Saturday for the game and after the postponement was announced changed its plans to fly back home Sunday afternoon. The Bulls are scheduled to play Monday at home against Denver.

The Nuggets on Sunday said rookie R.J. Hampton — who played in Denver's win at Oklahoma City on Saturday — will miss that Monday game because of health and safety protocols. That almost certainly means Hampton tested positive, had an inconclusive test or was flagged by contact tracing data.

Toronto’s next game, for now anyway, is scheduled for Tuesday against Detroit.

The NBA released its schedule for the second half of the season last week, and those jampacked lists — some teams are slotted to play 40 times in a span of 68 days — includes games postponed in the first half because of the virus and the February ice storm that caused a handful of postponements in Texas.

Rescheduling more games will get even tougher from here, and the notion of not every team playing its full 72-game allotment this season seems like a distinct possibility.

During the season's second half, which runs from March 10 through May 16, the Raptors and Bulls share 19 days without a game on their schedules. But without moving several other games around, the only possible date they could play without creating a back-to-back-to-back — or even a back-to-back-to-back-to-back — for either team is April 8.

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