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While Kyrie Irving (right index finger) was ruled out for the Nets’ game Saturday’s at Philadelphia, it’s Kevin Durant’s questionable status that has the NBA talking and his Brooklyn teammates fuming.
In a crazy scene Friday, the NBA scratched Durant from the starting lineup for the Nets’ game against the Raptors at Barclays Center, then allowed him to enter the game in the first quarter and finally yanked him off the court in the third. It was all due to contact tracing and Durant’s having come into contact with an individual who tested inconclusively for the coronavirus.
Durant didn’t travel to Philadelphia with his teammates Friday night, and wasn’t expected to play (if the NBA were to clear him to play, he would have had to get to Philly on his own). What wasn’t in doubt, however, was how irked the Nets were. After Durant had shown antibodies in recent tests, and tested negative for COVID-19 three times in 24 hours before Friday’s game, his teammates were irate at the situation.
“He feels the same way, especially him already having it. We get tested every single day. He’s been negative, so I don’t understand what the problem is,” James Harden said. “If that was the case, the game should’ve been postponed. If we’re talking about contact tracing, he was around all of us, so I don’t understand why he was wasn’t allowed to play then was able to play and then taken back off.”
That was a common complaint from the Nets, who expressed confusion as to why the NBA didn’t either let Durant play Friday or cancel the game outright.
The situation was a bad look for the NBA, especially coming a day after announcing the league will hold an All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7. It’s one of the league’s most lax cities in terms of COVID-19 measures and currently has an 11.4 percent positivity rate.
Durant took to Twitter to criticize the league’s handling of his situation, and Nets forward Jeff Green suggested the NBA protocols needed tweaking.
“If somebody tests negative, and then they test negative again, and then again, I don’t see the sense of sitting that person because of what they see somewhere else,” Green said. “If you’re negative, you should be able to play.”
In an attempt to demystify the league’s complex — and often confusing — COVID-19 protocols, The Post had spoken with NBA medical director Dr. John DiFiori.
“If someone is directly exposed to someone with COVID, and that exposure is considered concerning because of distance, time, whether the person was symptomatic or not at the time that they were around other people, all of these factors come into play,” Dr. DiFiori told The Post.
“There are many factors that go into this: Space, distance between the individuals, length of time, setting. Was it indoors? Was it outdoors? Indoors in an office? Indoors in a meeting room? Was it indoors on a basketball court where the air volume is much greater and the ventilation is also much, much better? All of those things come in to context whenever we’re assessing potential exposure.”
The Nets have seen this from the other side. In their Jan. 7 win over the 76ers, Seth Curry’s positive COVID-19 test came in the middle of the game. The Nets, however, not only resumed play, but played the next night in Memphis, where Jonas Valanciunas was ruled out of the second half due to contact tracing.
Dr. DiFiori, NBA senior VP of player matters David Weiss and a committee of doctors pore over COVID-19 test results and make calls on quarantine periods.
The most misunderstood aspect is proximity and threat level. Sitting unmasked in a cramped, poorly ventilated room is worse than running up and down in a cavernous arena. Fifteen minutes of close contact might cause concern or quarantine, while playing a whole game is only equivalent to five minutes.
“You’re in the ballpark when you’re saying five minutes. It’s not unusual for us to see the cumulative time is five minutes or less on the court,” Dr. DiFiori told The Post.
“It’s very repetitive fleeting moments, seconds at a time on a basketball court, which seems to be quite different than the risk that someone might have eating two feet away from someone else for half an hour or having a massage in a closed space. All those factors come into play.”
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