TORONTO – When the Warriors loaded their gear onto the squad’s buses late Friday night in the maze of tunnels below Boston’s TD Garden, coach Steve Kerr was still deciding who would play the next night and whether the entire squad would cross the road. Canadian border for the finale of their trip against the Toronto predators.
The sacks were loaded onto the bus and unloaded. Five players, including Steph Curry and Draymond Green, were sent home to avoid the risk of being stuck on the wrong side of the US-Canada border for a game they weren’t going to change. The sixth player, Jordan Poole, fell victim to the league’s health and safety protocols and was stuck in his Boston hotel room and needed to be negative twice 24 hours apart to get back on the team.
Over the past two years, complications from COVID-19 have outweighed a court game played in front of a half-crowded crowd inside Scotiabank Arena under new rules introduced in Ontario, the first. The NBA regular season game was played with these restrictions this season.
“The last few days have been really difficult as Jordan Poole was on the protocol,” Kerr said before making it clear. “Everything was in the air, especially with the tests. We weren’t sure how many people would pass the tests. ”
All of this served as a strong reminder that the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit us like the surf off the California coast. (Or, more appropriately, perhaps in Toronto: a flurry of incidents similar to the snow that piled up on Saturday near the Scotiabank Arena.)
“It feels like the whole league is in danger right now,” Kerr said. “Considering the differences in rules and how it can manifest itself in the long term and all that … We made the decision to do what we did, thinking that it will protect our team in the future.”
Even fans listening at home found it hard not to notice the absence of color analyst Jim Barnett, who was also stuck in a Boston hotel room after testing positive for COVID-19. So far, his symptoms have been mild, limited to dandruff in his throat. But Warriors production man Tim Roy was left alone to broadcast for the second night in a row.
On the court, Kewon Looney was the only Warriors member to return to their usual spot in the starting five. Chris Chiozza and Damion Lee took the backcourt seats normally occupied by Curry and Poole, while Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jonathan Cuminga took the places of Green and Andrew Wiggins. With nine players, the Warriors were only one above the NBA low.
The limited number of people in the arena were forced to take extra precautions. All were required not only to provide proof of vaccination, but workers in the arena were required to test negative on a rapid test and then undergo another PCR test. To enter the country, each member of the traveling Warriors group had to submit negative test results within 72 hours of arrival. It was an even more difficult process to return to the United States, and results were required within 24 hours of the trip.
After Poole was caught in the COVID protocols after Thursday’s testing round, everyone who made it to Canada was allowed to re-enter the US after being tested on Saturday morning at the team’s hotel. On a tip-off, these results were all negative.
But, as Poole’s unfortunate situation shows, this was no guarantee. Any player who tested positive could also be forced to remain on the Canadian side of the border for 14 days in addition to adhering to NBA health and safety protocols, which force any player who tests positive or comes into close contact to present two negative PCR results at intervals of 24 hours.
These hoops proved too dangerous to jump over for a group of veteran Warriors who headed straight back to the Bay Area from Boston, instead of crossing the border and risking being stuck 3,000 miles from home like Poole. Curry, Greene, Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr. and André Iguodala were eliminated after Friday’s game in Boston.
Poole, who entered health and safety protocols ahead of Friday’s game, has yet to meet the requirements for reuniting with his teammates. He and Barnett, a radio analyst, stayed at the command hotel in Boston with an indefinite return. It is unclear if Poole’s test was positive or if he was exposed through close contact with someone who had.
When the warriors embarked on a journey to five cities more than a week ago, fears of a rapidly spreading variant of Omicron were only in their infancy, but the last wave exploded as they moved across the continent’s northeastern part, one of its main hotspots.
The Warriors played two sets of games in a row – plus a broken private jet – to complete the trip with a record win.
“We have a very tight schedule,” Kerr said. “It will be nice to come home. It has been a long journey. It’s part of the NBA. Everyone goes through it. It just so happened that this trip happened during this burst, and all the antennas were working again. ”