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Report: Suns had COVID-19 outbreak on staff around Game 7 loss to Mavs

Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 15: The logo of the Phoenix Suns is waved to get the crowd pumped up against the Brooklyn Nets on November 15, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

It was the most shocking result of this postseason: The 64-win Suns were blown out on their home court in Game 7 against the Mavericks, 123-90. The game was essentially over by the middle of the second quarter.

Now comes a little context for that game, the Suns were battling a COVID-19 outbreak, although only one player tested positive (the day after the game), reports Sam Amick and Joe Vardon at The Athletic.

One Phoenix assistant coach, Bryan Gates, tested positive after Game 6 and missed the final game, while at least some of the other Suns indicated to colleagues they weren’t feeling well prior to Game 7.

The player tested positive the day after Game 7... The others who tested positive were support staffers.

The player is unidentified and, under HIPAA regulations, would have to identify themselves.

This outbreak is not why the Suns lost Game 7, Dallas had the best player in the series in Luka Doncic and the Mavericks’ role players stepped up on both ends of the court. However, it does provide some context as to why the Suns were no-shows for the biggest game of their season.

The interesting question posed by The Athletic story is if the Suns followed NBA protocol on COVID-19 testing.

The ordeal raised questions internally about whether they were following the league’s rules for testing. The NBA requires all team personnel, regardless of vaccine status, to test for the virus if they are experiencing symptoms, and they may not play, coach or be at team facilities if they test positive. The Suns, who privately insist there was no breach of protocol, declined to comment publicly for this story.

The current self-reporting system in practice discourages players from testing during the postseason. The vast majority of young, healthy adults — such as NBA players — who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms, the kind they can ignore or cover up with a simple over-the-counter cold medication. If it could take a player out of a key game, are they going to get themselves tested?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA would follow the advice of medical professionals when it comes to its COVID-19 policy for next season, and if testing positive would mean a player has to miss games.

“Ultimately, I think that’s a bigger issue than the NBA. I don’t think there we’re looking to be a trendsetter,” Silver said, speaking to the media before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “I think we want to be mindful of an impact an infected player can have not just on other players on the floor but people in the arena...

“That’s an area where we have a fantastic panel of doctors who have been working with us since March of 2020 when they shut down. And I think we will both look to them to make a recommendation, but then we will look to see what’s happening in greater society as well.”