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NBA may allow two-way, G-League players to fill roster spot if there’s a positive coronavirus test

When will NBA return

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2020/03/25: In this photo illustration a National Basketball Association (NBA) logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer model of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the background. (Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Here is a hypothetical situation: Two games into the “seeding games” (what most people still call the regular-season games) in Orlando, Team X has a player who tests positive for the coronavirus and has to be quarantined. Can that team fill his roster spot while he is out, and if so with whom? After the quarantine period, can that player return to the court or is he done for the entire rest of this season?

Today those are hypothetical questions. By early August, there’s a decent chance those are real problems for at least one NBA team inside the bubble at the league’s restart of the season. That has the NBA planning, talking to teams, and planning to negotiate with the National Basketball Players’ Association to come up with a plan, report Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN. Two-way players and players invited to training camp may be part of the solution.

If COVID-19 or a serious injury strikes a team during training camps or the eight regular-season seeding games, there are expected to be no limitations on the number of players a team could sign to replace those lost, but there would be restrictions on those in the pool of eligible players, sources said...

Eligible replacement players probably will have had to be signed in the NBA or G League or be on training camp contracts this season, sources said. Under these restrictions, for example, no team could sign veteran Jamal Crawford — who went unsigned all season — or an international player.

The league office has discussed the possibility with its teams that there could be a requirement that those players replaced for COVID-19 or injury would become ineligible to return for the balance of this season, sources said.

While GMs want all the roster flexibility they can get, the reality is if a starter — or, more importantly, a star player — tests positive in Orlando the team likely will not fill that roster spot. What is the point? For the playoffs, coaches already shrink their rotations. No G League player or guy on a two-way contract is going to be able to step into that starter/star role and help a team instantly in the postseason. Plus, if the team has to bring that new player in from outside the Orlando bubble, then that new player would have to go through his own quarantine period before he can play. By that point, the starter/star who initially tested positive could be ready to return.

The real challenge for GMs and coaches would come if three or more players from one team tested positive.

Expect the league and players union to come up with some plan to make rosters more flexible when teams head to Orlando and start working out there. Just don’t expect it means much changes with rotations when it gets to the playoffs.