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COVID Woes Mount, Stephen Curry’s Magnetism, Clippers’ Highs & Lows | Open Floor: SI’s NBA Show

Ben Golliver and Michael Pina discuss the NBA’s rise in positive tests, contact tracing absences, and postponed games. How close is the NBA to pushing pause on the season? How might the league respond to tighten up its protocols to ensure games can continue? Do the absences devalue the product? From there, Ben and Michael break down both sides of an entertaining game between the Warriors and Clippers. Has Stephen Curry proven Michael right by making Golden State the NBA’s most entertaining team? What exactly ailed the Clippers during their collapse and how have they changed from last season? Can the Clippers topple the Lakers if they can’t generate more offense at the basket? The show closes with an email from an Open Floor Globe member who powered through a marathon by listening to Michael’s takes on the Phoenix Suns. 

The following transcript is an excerpt from The Open Floor Podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on

Ben Golliver: So this is the standard the NBA’s working with. Would you agree that so far the NBA, even with these three postponements, hasn’t reached the standard that Adam Silver set? In other words, they’re not moving the goalposts yet, are they? 

Michael Pina: I don’t think so, no. I guess when I’m just watching all of this unfold from afar, my takeaway is that the contact tracing measures are pretty arbitrary. Is that fair to say, Ben? I know that the Philadelphia 76ers had a game where basically everybody was out after Seth Curry tested positive. But I just don’t understand why that game was played at all. I assume there were players on that team who were in the locker room that played in that game, who are in the locker room with Seth Curry. The 76ers played a game the night before against the Washington Wizards and the Wizards continued to play. So a lot of this just feels like … I know that they’re testing twice a day on game days … but a lot of it feels really not random, but just case by case. When I feel like there should be harder rules in place, does that make any sense at all? 

Ben Golliver: It does. The Boston Globe had an interesting report that I hadn’t seen previously, essentially saying that the NBA’s position is that if you’re just playing basketball over the course of a normal game, even though players guard each other in close proximity, they don’t spend enough consistent time and total time to make it likely that the virus is spread.

Michael Pina: Now, this is not even an argument the NBA used or hinted at during the bubble or any other point. So, again, this was kind of new information to me. But then you do see, as I mentioned, where guys are having a conversation after a game for say, three minutes on the court-if that, and that winds up putting Bradley Beal into contact tracing. 

So I’m not sure if arbitrary is the right word, but I go back to the idea of a lack of transparency. The NBA has not just sort of laid out exactly what gets you into contact tracing, what’s OK, what’s not OK. And like I said, I do think that they’re kind of applying it on a case-by-case basis. They’re trying to do it in real time. And they’re also doing this for the first time for the league. So that’s going to lead to situations that leave outsiders confused. It sort of boils down to, in my opinion, whether the players trust the league’s contact tracing program or how they’re monitoring this thing. 

Now, it seemed like the 76ers had real reservations about taking the court, right? And not that the NBA, like, forced them to take the court, but it did kind of boil down to, look, we know you guys have seven available players and you’re being forced to say that Mike Scott-even though he’s coming off an injury, is available. And you’ve got some of your star guys sitting out for minor injuries that they hadn’t kept him sidelined previously. So you kind of wonder, OK, what exactly is going on here in terms of their desire to play right? Or the organization’s desire to put its best players on the court.

In that kind of a situation, you could easily understand I’m not saying they did this, but if I was the owner or if I was the GM or I was the coach and I had a player test positive and we weren’t completely sure that the spread was, contained to just that one player, I might want to just keep my best players in isolation, regardless of what the NBA’s rules were, until I was completely convinced everybody else was OK.

There are obviously major investments in the health of these star players. And so that should be almost treated with an extra degree of care. You could see that argument being made and it just felt like putting the 76ers out there for a game which they weren’t really comfortable playing as Doc Rivers said that prior to that game. And you’re looking at the ragtag roster they put on the court, that’s not really in anybody’s best interests.

But I guess on the flip side, it’s not like they have to refund the fans ticket prices. You know, there’s nobody in the game. They’re just sort of going through the motions, checking the box to say, hey, this game is taking place. And I think ultimately, like they’re still arguing some games are better than no games. And games with half teams are better than games with nobody. And so we just kind of play through regardless of the reservations. And, that could get to a pretty tough to swallow place here if the virus isn’t contained over the next week or two.

I mean, we could be seeing situations like that Philly situation on a regular basis. And I think for the fans or for media analysts, I think our only response is to say, sorry guys, these results don’t really count. It doesn’t matter if Denver beats Philly with half their roster out, we can’t really say that’s a legitimate result. And so that’s a real risk the NBA is incurring here is undercutting the validity of these games, because their situation isn’t able to put full teams on the court. But I don’t know if they have any alternative or any end around from that. They may just be forced to deal with it. 

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