Nuggets’ Michael Malone: “Scary that COVID is not going away”

Amid reports that the NBA and NBA Players Association are in talks to increase COVID-19 testing among players, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Wednesday that it’s important for his team to stay vigilant.

And he termed the recent outbreak of the Omicron variant as “scary.”

“We have a lot more guys who are vaccinated now than we did at the start of the year, which is a positive,” Malone said prior to Denver’s game against Minnesota at Ball Arena. “We are trying to be smart, as you look around the NBA landscape, to do as many things as possible to try to limit any outbreaks.

“It’s scary that this is not going away and seems to be here for as long as it has been, but we are dealing with it like everybody else is trying to deal with it. Hopefully, we can mitigate any large-scale outbreaks amidst our team and our franchise.”

As of Wednesday morning, a total of 60 NBA players had entered health and safety protocols this season. That includes 43 in the past two weeks, and 13 on Tuesday, by far the highest of any day this regular season. The Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets have been hit hard by COVID.

According to a report in The Athletic, the NBA and the players’ union are in talks to increase COVID-19 testing among players — both vaccinated or unvaccinated — for all game and practice days.

“Now that we are seeing breakthroughs, we believe the need to test more often,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told The Athletic. “The notion of not testing, I get that people in society are saying, ‘I didn’t even know I’m sick.’ I get the sentiment. I can’t get my brain around (how) we’re not going to test just because we don’t want to know.

“Do we continue to test, because we believed before that we needed to know? Or do we stop because we think, ‘Well, being positive doesn’t mean our players can’t perform and make other people sick.’”

Malone said he had not been informed yet about increased testing.

“I have heard nothing about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “But we will wait for the official word from the league if indeed that happens.

“We’re like every team, and it’s not just in the NBA, it’s the NFL, it’s hockey, it’s all over the place. We are a microcosm of society. This is the reality. I know that there is a new variant that has proven to be very contagious, which is scary.”

The NBA and NBPA agreed to increased testing around Thanksgiving and the two sides see a need to increase testing as December’s holiday season draws near. The NBA has a 97% percent vaccination rate among players, and 60% of its players have taken the booster shot, according to an ESPN report.

Injury updates. As expected, JaMychal Green sat out Wednesday’s game with what Malone called “a pretty serious ankle injury.”

“I’m hoping that maybe some time on this upcoming road trip we can get him back,” Malone said. “That remains to be seen. I know he’s making steps in the right direction, but when you roll (the ankle) the way he rolled it, it’s not easy to bounce back right away. So I don’t know if it’s two more weeks, but my hope is there is a chance he’ll be available on this upcoming trip.”

Guard Bones Hyland was inactive Wednesday night, but the move is not injury-related. The Nuggets did not comment on the situation prior to the game.

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