LOS ANGELES — NBA action in 2020-21 means sometimes the fans get rejected.
On Wednesday, the audience tuning in to ESPN’s broadcast of the Pelicans-Clippers game at Staples Center was denied a look at Zion vs. Kawhi. New Orleans’ young superstar was ruled out – and confined to his hotel room – after his coronavirus test came back inconclusive.
That left the Pelicans without Williamson, who has been putting up stout numbers in his second NBA season, averaging 21.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and shooting 55.7 percent – as well as two other starters: guards Lonzo Ball (bilateral knee tendinopathy) and Eric Bledsoe (right eye irritation).
But even though his team’s number of missing pieces didn’t meet the NBA’s standards for delaying action – which is what happened Monday when the Pelicans’ game against Dallas was postponed because four Mavericks players were out after testing positive for COVID-19, Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t in the mood to complain.
Instead, the new New Orleans coach focused on the dire situation facing the United States, where the coronavirus continues to ravage the population – including in L.A. County, where Department of Public Health officials on Wednesday reported 14,564 new cases and 281 new fatalities.
“I don’t think they like anybody being out, certainly not somebody of Zion’s stature,” Van Gundy said in response to a question about whether the NBA could do anything differently so as to avoid having players miss games because of inconclusive results.
“If they could avoid it, they would. And, look, the league they have their protocols and they go about it and they’ve adjusted them several times and obviously made some of the rules stricter a couple days ago, so things are changing all the time as this thing goes on.
“Listen, we’ve just gotta understand where we are … this is about a deadly pandemic,” Van Gundy continued, with a nod to the U.S. record set on Tuesday with 4,327 deaths, the most reported in one day since the pandemic started, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“So we’ll deal with whatever we have to deal with to go out and play an NBA basketball game, but that’s not what’s important in this pandemic. I’m not saying the game’s not important, it’s important to all of us. But when we’re talking COVID stuff, what’s important is we need to stop the spread the best we can. (Four-thousand-plus) people in one day in this country died yesterday of COVID. This is serious stuff. And we need to prevent the spread as much as we can, and if this kind of stuff will help prevent the spread – I don’t know if it will – but if it will, then fine.”
ZUBAC IN, DESPITE SORENESS
The Clippers had their full arsenal available Wednesday, including center Ivica Zubac, who had been listed as questionable entering the day because of abdominal soreness.
His availability wasn’t determined until shortly before tip-off, however, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.
“Actually we’re gonna warm up and get loose and kind of see how he feels,” Lue said shortly after the 7-footer left the court where he’d gone through his normal warm-ups motions.
“We don’t really know what happened,” Lue added. “After the game, he felt great. The next day, the off day, he felt great. And then it just started hurting that night, so just trying to keep an eye on him.”
FWIW – your guy Ivica Zubac (questionable: abdominal soreness) is out here working in his midrange ahead of the Clippers game vs. Nola. pic.twitter.com/sVTWtgrNpB
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) January 14, 2021