On Jan. 12, the league and the players’ union announced new health protocols to deal with a rash of game postponements. Among the new rules, players and staff have been directed to remain at their homes or hotels when on the road except for team activities and essential tasks. After a recent game between the Miami Heat and the Nets, a security official interrupted Nets guard Kyrie Irving’s attempt to exchange jerseys with the Heat’s Bam Adebayo — much to the bafflement of Irving. (Irving slipped a jersey to Adebayo after their next game two days later.)
Others players have weighed in on the All-Star game as well. On Friday, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, who was selected to his first All-Star team last season, said: “I feel like, for the most part, they have done a great job of trying to keep us safe,” referring to the league, “though you can’t control everything. But I do understand the concerns about it, especially in Atlanta.”
His teammate Kemba Walker, a four-time All Star, told reporters on Friday that he agreed with James.
“He’s a smart man,” Walker said. “He’s been around. He’s a leader. A lot of things he says are correct. He feels the way he feels. I’m probably going to be on vacation.”
Earlier in the week, De’Aaron Fox, the top guard on the Sacramento Kings, said holding the game would be “stupid.”
“If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, then what’s the point of bringing the All-Star game back?” Fox told reporters. “Obviously, money makes the world go ’round so it is what it is.”
For the moment, the N.B.A.’s virus-related game postponements have died down. The most recent one was on Monday, when the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets were supposed to play in Denver. Two days later, the league said in its weekly report that no new players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The week before there had been one case, a sharp reduction from the 27 reported over the two weeks prior. In January, several teams were missing multiple players because of infections and contact tracing, but now most teams are no longer missing anyone for that reason.
N.B.A. players — like much of the country — are under enormous mental strain, as Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors said in a podcast interview that was posted on Friday. He said this season has been particularly difficult with longer days as a result of daily testing and restrictions in the league’s protocols.