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Kevin Durant debacle shows NBA’s COVID policy is a disaster



Kevin Durant had a lot to say after being pulled.Image: Getty ImagesIf you didn’t watch the Nets’ 123-117 loss to the Raptors last night, you might have woken up this morning wondering what the fuck happened with Kevin Durant.Well, you’re not alone, because everyone who saw the game is wondering what the fuck happened with Kevin Durant, too.So, let’s go through it slowly and figure out what the fuck happened with Kevin Durant, beyond the basic story that Durant didn’t start the game due to health and safety protocols, then was allowed to enter the game, put up an 8-6-5 line in 19 minutes, then was told that he had to leave the game.Durant, who had to quarantine for a week in January because of a close contact, and was one of the first athletes to contract COVID-19 last March while he was still out recovering from his torn Achilles, was understandably frustrated by his latest ensnarement in the pandemic, as he put out a simple tweet as the fourth quarter went on just down the hall from where he was sequestered: “Free me”G/O Media may get a commissionIf only it were that easy. Based on the statement laid out by the NBA, it made sense for Durant to be quarantined. That statement, however, also maps out a series of failures.Kevin Durant has tested negative three times in the last 24 hours, including two negative PCR tests today. However, someone he interacted with this afternoon subsequently had an inconclusive test result return shortly before the game. Durant was initially held out of the game while that result was being reviewed.So far, so good. This is the “abundance of caution” that we hear so much about. You have a close contact with an inconclusive test, you treat it like a positive until you know otherwise. That’s just smart when you’re dealing with a virus that’s killed more Americans than the population of Oakland. That sucks for Durant, but that’s life right now.Under the league’s health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test.Well, there’s your first problem. If you, regular person, had a close contact with an inconclusive test, you’d (hopefully) stay the hell home until you got word that their test was confirmed negative. And then if it was positive, you’d stay quarantined at least until you had your own negative tests, or, to actually play it safe, two weeks. But the NBA’s policy here is, nah, stick around and see how this plays out.Exactly what process of “review” allowed Durant to enter the game, well, it didn’t work out, because…During the game, a positive result was returned for the person Durant interacted with this afternoon.Whoops! So, the “review” didn’t show a negative test, just an inconclusive one? Because when it actually came back, it was positive. Just a quick question: Did this “review” indicate that Kevin Durant is a superstar and his team was playing a game on ESPN? Would Bismack Biyombo have been allowed to enter the Hornets-Jazz game under the same circumstances?Once that test was confirmed positive, out of an abundance of caution, Durant was removed from the game, and contact tracing is underway to determine if he was in fact a close contact of the positive individual.Let’s allow Durant to react to that last part.Indeed, you can’t fool em with your Wack ass PR tactics. Not so sure about the #FREE7 part, though, because “close contact” or not, Durant was around someone in the afternoon who tested positive for coronavirus. It’s imperative to make sure that he didn’t wind up getting it — yes, you can get COVID-19 twice — and that he didn’t spread it further.James Harden recognized that “he was around all of us” and that if it was about contact tracing, “The game should have been postponed.”Not only was the game not postponed, of course, the game was played, Durant entered, Durant was pulled… and the game still wasn’t postponed. Not that he’s anywhere near the person most to blame, but if Raptors coach Nick Nurse “was told right before the game that Durant was out because of health protocols,” and then the series of events unfolded as it did, why didn’t he, Nets coach Steve Nash, or both, sensibly raise a stink about continuing to play the game? Nash, for his part, saw at least some fault in how he dealt with things.But this comes back squarely to the NBA, which pulled off such a feat last summer with the Orlando bubble, and has predictably struggled mightily with coronavirus outside of that Disney lockdown.Eleven months ago, Rudy Gobert got coronavirus and the NBA and the rest of sports shut down completely. What’s become clear is why the pre-shutdown idea of just playing games behind closed doors would’ve been a disaster. Because that’s what this is.Wait, the NBA isn’t just playing behind closed doors. We had Courtside Karen just this week. But a much more enjoyable fan was in the stands in Orlando for the Bulls’ visit, a man properly wearing a mask that nicely accented his Michael Jordan jersey — a jersey for which he was thoroughly roasted by NBC Chicago announcers Adam Amin and Stacey King.This being 2021, word quickly got to the man that his favorite team’s broadcast was highlighting him this way, and he not only got a good laugh out of it, he got some love from his favorite team online.For the record, Mack McClendon insisted that his jersey was not a knockoff, just old and well-worn. And both King and Amin dapped him up online, too.Also for the record, the “Nyquil” reference is extremely real, long live the Choncago Balls. And, it’s kind of funny that this whole thing happened in Orlando, where Jordan himself once had to wear a weird-looking jersey, number 12, because his actual jersey had been stolen and hidden in the ceiling.Jordan took it personally, and scored 49 points. McClendon did not, and got to have the night of his life even though the Bulls lost, 123-119. .


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