The Brooklyn Nets will be without star forward Kevin Durant for their Christmas Day matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers. On Friday, the team announced that Durant remains in the league's health and safety protocols, which he entered on Dec. 18.
Few teams have been impacted by COVID-19 as much as the Nets. They still have 10 different players in the protocols, and have had three games -- Dec. 19 vs. Denver Nuggets, Dec. 21 vs. Washington Wizards and Dec. 23 vs. Portland Trail Blazers -- postponed because they didn't have enough healthy players. The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors are the only other teams to have that many games postponed this season.
Despite all of their absences, the Nets are expected to play on Christmas against the Lakers. Head coach Steve Nash told reporters on Friday that James Harden has been cleared from the protocols and will be available to play. Harden hasn't suited up since Dec. 10 against the Atlanta Hawks.
There were hopes that Durant could potentially be cleared based on a new agreement the league and the NBPA are working on. Under the proposed new guidelines, players could return six days after testing positive -- instead of the current 10 -- depending on their cycle threshold. Such changes would only apply to players who are asymptomatic and not contagious, however.
In an interview earlier this week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed the possibility of shortening the health and safety protocols.
"We always are measuring viral loads with our PCR tests, that's part of the protocol," Silver said. "And so it's something ... not just our doctors, but the medical community is looking at. One, I think they're already realizing that you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players who are vaccinated and boosted. It seems like the virus runs through their systems faster. They become not just asymptomatic but, more importantly, they're not shedding the virus anymore. That's the real concern, in terms of (spreading the virus to) others. We are actively looking at shortening the amount of days that a player is out before he can return to the floor."
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Before the season, everyone thought Nets vs. Lakers would be the most exciting matchup of Christmas Day. Now, with Durant out due to COVID and Anthony Davis sidelined with a knee injury, it's unfortunately much less compelling.