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Reports: NBA, players’ union agree to require teams to sign replacement players for COVID-19 absences

NBA coronavirus

CHINA - 2020/03/22: In this photo illustration the American National Basketball Association (NBA) men’s professional basketball league logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer model of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Sunday, the NBA postponed five games because of COVID outbreaks (three that day, two later in the week). That brings to seven the number of games postponed this season, and that number could climb with 64 players having entered health and safety protocols in the past week (stat vai Baxter Holmes).

NBA owners reportedly said in a conference call this week that avoiding postponements was a top priority. However, since the owners can’t control the virus, they are instead focusing on stocking teams with replacement players.

Teams with more than one player out due to COVID health and safety protocols will have to sign replacement players via “hardship” 10-day contracts, under a new agreement between the NBA and players’ union. Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN had the details.

Under the agreement, teams will be allowed to sign a replacement player for each positive COVID-19 case that crops up across its roster. So if a team has five positive cases of COVID-19, for example, it could sign five replacement players.

Meanwhile, teams will have to sign at least one replacement player if they have two positive COVID-19 cases; at least two if they have three positive COVID-19 cases; and at least three if they have four or more positive COVID-19 cases.

The league wants to press on, even as it tries to find a delicate balance between player safety and keeping its business running. It’s very possible COVID-19 absences will play a role during the NBA’s showcase Christmas Day games, with players such as James Harden, Kevin Durant, Trae Young and more already out and possibly not returning before the holiday.

While there have been calls for the league to shut down for a couple of weeks to get a handle on this — including from at least one player — don’t bet on that happening. Think about it logically: Is sending players home for two weeks where they will be indoors gathered with family for Christmas/New Year’s Eve how you slow the spread of the disease? Plus, there is no guarantee that in a couple of weeks (or a month, or whenever) that things will be better with the virus around the nation.

The NBA is going to try and push through this, and that means jobs for some G-League players. At least temporarily.