As the NBA plays through this omicron-driven COVID-19 surge, it's not just the rosters that are unrecognizable. It's the referees, too.
Twenty-five of the league's 70 active refs -- 36 percent! -- are in COVID-19 health and safety protocols as of Thursday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and, just like the players, their fill-ins are coming from the G League.
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Finding replacements has been feasible in part because the G League season is on pause until Wednesday. On a few occasions, however -- Pacers vs. Warriors, Dec. 13; Suns vs. Hornets, Dec. 19; Spurs vs. Pistons, Dec 26; Suns vs. Thunder, Dec. 29 -- games have been played with only two referees.
Last August, the NBA and the National Basketball Referees Association announced that they'd agreed to a vaccination mandate. All referees have been vaccinated, and they are required to get booster shots by Wednesday, per ESPN. The league is now reportedly working with the union on improving referees' travel arrangements in order to reduce potential exposures.
In related news, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers and Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone reportedly entered the league's health and safety protocols on Thursday. There are now seven head coaches in protocols: Rivers, Malone, Mark Daigneault (Oklahoma City), Monty Williams (Phoenix), Chauncey Billups (Portland), Frank Vogel (Los Angeles Lakers) and Billy Donovan (Chicago).
Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry recently cleared protocols. Thirty percent of NBA head coaches have been in protocols this season.