'A wakeup call': Pacers and Hawks shorthanded in matchup due to COVID-19
INDIANAPOLIS — The coronavirus pandemic has changed the landscape of everyday life since its onset in March 2020, and although vaccines are available and some things have returned to normal, the Pacers and the Hawks each received reminders that the pandemic is not over.
Both teams were shorthanded ahead of their matchup Wednesday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Indiana starter Justin Holiday tested positive for COVID-19, a source with knowledge of the situation told IndyStar, and saw his NBA-leading 250 consecutive games played streak come to an end. He entered the NBA's coronavirus health and safety protocols Tuesday, and his vaccination status is unclear. Holiday is asymptomatic, per the source.
"He's disappointed that this happened. I don't have an exact timetable (for his return)," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "Generally, the prognosis with this kind of thing is anywhere from a week to 2-3 weeks, sometimes you hear 10 days to two weeks."
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Meanwhile, Atlanta coach Nate McMillan decided not to coach Wednesday "out of an abundance of caution," the team announced just hours before the game. McMillan's assistant and son, Jamelle, entered the league's health and safety protocols Wednesday. McMillan, his staff and team are fully vaccinated, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but he isn't taking any chances even after returning a negative COVID-19 test.
Another Atlanta assistant, Chris Jent, filled in for McMillan as head coach. Jent said McMillan wanted to wait two days and register a second negative COVID-19 test. The Hawks host the 76ers on Friday.
"He's really taking the side of caution with this, but it is a wake up call," Jent said. "I think we've all let our guard down a bit, sometimes for good reason, but others we gotta pay attention to it and understand that (COVID-19) is still kind of omnipresent right now. We have to pay attention."
Lakers superstar LeBron James and Bulls guard Coby White, who are both fully vaccinated, and Denver guards Austin Rivers and Bones Hyland, whose vaccination status is unclear, have all recently entered the NBA's health and safety protocols.
The league ramped up its COVID-19 testing, even for vaccinated players, after Thanksgiving, so Carlisle isn't surprised to see it affect several NBA teams.
"We're still in a global pandemic," Carlisle said. "But not coincidentally, this is happening around the holidays when a lot of people visit and there can tend to be an awful lot of outside exposure with family members and friends visiting in the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the big picture, how much more of a spike there's going to be. But I do think (holiday gatherings are) one of the obvious reasons that we're seeing some numbers go up right now."
Follow IndyStar Pacers beat writer James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid. Reach him via email: email@example.com.