Memphis assistant Brad Jones walked into what he thought was the Grizzlies’ locker room in Brooklyn a few days ago and then wondered if he was in the right place.
There was only one other person in the room – and Jones had no idea who that person was.
“Am I in the Brooklyn locker room?” Jones asked.
It turns out he was in the right place. The other person in the room was a 7-foot-1 rookie named Jon Teske, who had just signed a 10-day contract as the Grizzlies attempted to fill in the gaps in the roster created by the loss of players for a variety of related reasons. to COVID-19.
Such is life in the NBA these days, with constant roster shuffles – and, as Jones learned from a text message he read when he woke up at 7.15am on Saturday, staff shuffles from coaches as well. He served as the interim coach for the Grizzlies game against the Los Angeles Clippers after Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Saturday morning.
Jenkins became the 14th head coach in the 30-team league to run out of time in recent weeks due to an issue with the virus, a figure that does not include many assistant coaches, other staff at the team and around 300 players.
The other head coaches to have made a formal stint this season: Rick Carlisle of Indiana, Alvin Gentry of Sacramento, Monty Williams of Phoenix, Doc Rivers of Philadelphia, Frank Vogel of the Los Angeles Lakers, Tyronn Lue of the Los Clippers Angeles, Michael Malone of Denver, Portland Chauncey Billups, Billy Donovan of Chicago, Mike Budenholzer of Milwaukee, Nate McMillan of Atlanta, Jason Kidd of Dallas and Mark Daigneault of Oklahoma City.
“I had COVID, but no symptoms,” said Daigneault, who returned to the Thunder on Friday. “I was actually really contagious, based on my COVID levels, and yet asymptomatic, which gave me a very tangible example of how this thing is spreading so quickly. If I hadn’t been in a testing protocol like ours, I wouldn’t have thought about testing, and yet I would have breathed everyone’s breath. “
Also in protocols and unable to play on Saturday: Grizzlies center Steven Adams, who was the only Memphis player to make the team’s first 40 games this season and who entered the day as one of 17 League players not to miss one game yet in the 2021-22 campaign.
“Yes, we have to plan when we find out that so-and-so has COVID or such has an injury,” Jones said. “Who’s the next man, blah blah blah.” … It’s a difficult time, obviously.
And the Grizzlies already have an idea of how to navigate a game without Jenkins, who had to miss a recent Memphis contest due to a death in her family. Jenkins was fully involved in Saturday’s game plan, Jones said, noting that they spoke to each other several times that morning on their own.
“I hope that other than a different looking, uglier guy, an older guy on the sidelines, you won’t notice a difference with what’s going on there,” Jones said.
The number of players in Protocols has dropped significantly in recent days, from around 125 in the last week of December to around 50 on Saturday. The numbers always change quickly and some players on the roster are closer to a return than others, and the league has shortened the time some players have to spend in isolation after testing positive.
But the league – with 97% of its players known to be vaccinated, at least 65% known to be boosted, and with 100% of its head coaches vaccinated – are hoping the worst of this wave may be over. No game has been postponed for more than a week, after 11 had to be postponed between December 14 and December 30.
The league entered on Saturday with 584 players having played at least one game this season, 44 more than the previous record for a full season – and this one isn’t even half-finished.
“The NBA did a great job of handling this,” Jones said. “Obviously, this caught not only the NBA, but the whole world by surprise. We’re going to come back to that in a few years… we’ve been through a lot of crazy times, but this last month has been crazy.
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