The Toronto Raptors' COVID-19 issues took a concerning turn this week when the NBA announced back-to-back game postponements due to league Health and Safety protocols.
Things appear to be a little bit more under control now with a game scheduled for Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons, but Toronto will be missing a sizeable chunk of its roster and the majority of its coaching staff once again. The team has already ruled out OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Patrick McCaw, and one unnamed coach who are joining Pascal Siakam, Nick Nurse, and five other coaches in the NBA's Health and Safety protocols.
Just a few days ago I broke down what we knew about the situation on Sunday. Of course, there was still a lot we didn't know at the time, but a lot has changed since then, and while we won't ever have all the answers, here is what we do know.
Wednesday: Pascal Siakam Struggles vs. Heat
Last Wednesday, Siakam had his worst game of the season against the Miami Heat. He scored just five points in a season's low 24 minutes played. In the post-game press conference Nurse chalked it up to fatigue in the second game of a back-to-back.
"It’s tough on a back-to-back," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam's performance. "I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often."
Thursday: Raptors Off Day
Thursday was an off day for the team and there wasn't much organizational contact which general manager Bobby Webster said was helpful for contact tracing purposes.
"Once this became an issue, there wasn't a ton of conversations about yesterday. It was more about the days prior," Webster said last Friday. "That's when you go back and think about actions and where people were."
Friday: Siakam, Nurse, & 5 Assistants Ruled Out
Toronto's COVID-19 issues first popped up last Friday when Siakam, Nurse, and five assistants were unavailable against the Houston Rockets due to the NBA's Health and Safety protocols.
Sportsnet's Michael Grange reported that Siakam arrived at the arena prior to the game but was sent home due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Due to privacy reasons, the league will not say if Siakam did indeed test positive, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski subsequently reported that Siakam would be out through the All-Star break because of league protocols. Grange also reported that one member of the coaching staff did test positive for COVID-19.
Despite lingering COVID-19 questions, the NBA decided it was safe to play Friday night's game as everyone available for Toronto had received a negative COVID-19 test result.
"Friday, I don't believe we met until the game. So really, then the contact tracing just becomes what happens in that game," Webster said on Tuesday. "But going into the Friday game we obviously knew that something was going on. So, I think everyone took all the precautions there."
Sergio Scariolo took over head coaching duties and Toronto defeated the Rockets 122-111. Nobody on the Rockets has entered the league's COVID-19 protocols since the game was played.
Saturday: No Practice
On Saturday the Raptors did not hold a practice, according to Raptors PR.
Sunday: Chicago Bulls Game Postponed
It sounds like the organization spent the day in lockdown undergoing a thorough contact tracing review to figure out the next steps.
"The reason we didn’t have the required eight players was also due also to ongoing contact tracing," Raptors PR wrote in a statement.
Monday: Raptors hold 1-on-0 Practices
On Monday, the league announced Toronto's game against the Pistons scheduled originally for Tuesday night would be postponed tentatively to Wednesday night due to league Health and Safety protocols.
"The game is being postponed tomorrow due to positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization," the league announced.
The Raptors were cleared to hold some 1-on-0 practices to limit any possible close contacts, according to Webster.
"You don't just jump into a full practice," Webster said. "So [Monday], after being cleared, 1-on-0 workouts and obviously the reason for that is if there were to be another positive, then back to the contact tracing point, then there is no contact tracing if someone comes in here all by themselves to work out."
Tuesday: Raptors Cleared To Play Pistons
Late Tuesday afternoon the Raptors were cleared to begin practicing in preparation for Wednesday night's game against the Pistons.
The team subsequently announced that VanVleet, Anunoby, Flynn, McCaw, and one unnamed staff member would not be able to participate in Wednesday's game due to league protocols.
We know that the league requires anyone who is a close contact of a confirmed positive COVID-19 test to quarantine for at least seven days regardless of their own test results. Therefore, anyone who is available to play on Wednesday night cannot be a direct close contact of a positive COVID-19 test nor have tested positive for COVID-19. For privacy reasons, the team will not reveal why any players are in league COVID-19 protocols, but at some point between Friday's game against the Rockets and Tuesday afternoon, the team ruled out those four additional players either due to contact tracing or a positive COVID-19 tests result.
"We've had multiple days here with no new cases," Webster said Tuesday night. "I think that's really important. That's something the NBA stressed to us that would allow us to at least get back on the court as a team. So multiple days of no new cases, I think, is the big takeaway here."
All four of the players, along with Siakam and the coaching staff, are expected to be out for Thursday night's game against the Boston Celtics as well.
The Raptors have promoted Jalen Harris and Donta Hall from the G-League to help fill out their roster and the team is scheduled to tip-off against the Pistons at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
If all goes well, Toronto will catch a flight after the game and head to Boston to wrap up the first half of their schedule against the Celtics on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
After that, the Raptors will have a week off before returning to start the second half of their schedule against the Atlanta Hawks. As of now, it's too early to say who will be available to play in that game, according to Webster.