New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin revealed to reporters Tuesday that three of the team’s players tested positive for the coronavirus, with the league preparing to resume its season next month at Walt Disney World.
Citing HIPAA privacy rules, Griffin declined to identify which players tested positive, saying that each of those individuals are currently in “self-isolation" and being tested daily for the virus.
Griffin explained the team received the positive test results last week when the players returned to New Orleans’ training facilities.
“To this point, we have had positive tests,” Griffin said. “From a HIPAA standpoint, I’m not going to talk about any of those individuals. We’ve had multiple players test positive. The league has a system in place that was designed to catch these cases. That system worked, and we’re just going to deal with it the best we can moving forward. From a basketball standpoint, I think you’re going to see COVID have an enormous impact on teams, and even some of the teams that went into the bubble as a playoff seed. You’ve seen that Brooklyn has been really damaged by the COVID situation. So again, this is something where we’re all at the mercy of the same enemy.”
In New Orleans’ case, the Pelicans remain 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies with its season set to resume July 30 against the Utah Jazz, followed by an Aug. 1 outing against the L.A. Clippers, before an Aug. 3 tip against Memphis.
As one of the play-in teams that needs to fare well in its eight seeding games to advance to the playoffs, Griffin thinks New Orleans could be at a slight disadvantage after three of its players have tested positive for COVID-19.
Griffin complimented the league for understanding that teams would inevitably receive positive tests for COVID-19, which is “why the league put in as much time as they did between report date and mandatory workouts” to level the playing field.
“Unfortunately, as a play-in team, we’re sort of disproportionately penalized if we have a COVID case because by the time you get players back, you may already be done, and your competitive advantage may be gone,” Griffin said. “So, in our situation, COVID is going to play a much bigger role than it will for an established playoff team. We’re playing two really important playoffs teams to start. We had an 18-game cushion before [the season was suspended]. We only have eight [now].”
The NBA announced last week that 16 players tested positive for COVID-19 among the 22 teams selected to play at Walt Disney World.
Per the league’s protocol, the Pelicans are testing players every other day. The players that tested positive test daily, Griffin said. “When they can have two negative tests, they can return to activities with the team.”
Having survived three bouts with cancer, Griffin said he still plans to travel with the team to Orlando for resumption of the season.
“I’m not at all in the high-risk area,” he said. “I’m not going to ask my players to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
That goes for coaches, too. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is 65, which is considered a high-risk age for COVID-19. When asked whether Gentry would join the team in Orlando, Griffin said that “is to be determined.”
Gentry, meanwhile, expressed a desire to be there for a team that stuck by him through tough times.
From Nov. 23 to Dec. 17, the Pelicans dropped 13-straight games, including a pair of overtime losses to the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets.
“Usually when that happens in this league or really any other league, there’s a good chance that the players just kind of quit on you,” Gentry said. “That never happened here. They were in the foxhole and stood by me. I want to do the same thing for them. I want to be there for them. I want to be in Orlando, and I want to give us an opportunity to try to do well in this situation."
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