The NBA postponed Friday's Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks game not long after a concerned Bradley Beal said the Wizards were "fighting the league" on playing the game with only eight players available and six others sidelined by the league's health and safety protocol.
It's the 17th NBA game postponed this season because of the league's health and safety protocols and the sixth consecutive Wizards game to be called off.
On Wednesday, the league cited the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing for other players on Washington's roster and the lack of practice time the team had before the scheduled game.
After a nine-day pause because of a coronavirus outbreak within the team, the Wizards were cleared to return to practice Wednesday evening. But the team had only eight players available and basically did light shooting, according to coach Scott Brooks.
The Wizards were extremely concerned about playing in a game with not only their limited number of available players but also their lack of practice time and conditioning following the lengthy pause. Washington hasn't played since Jan. 11 against Phoenix.
"We weren't able to get into a gym for a week," Beal said on Wednesday night before the league's decision to postpone the game. "That alters guys' rhythm, shape -- that is just like a recipe for injury, honestly. I think we are fighting the league on it."
Beal said that he and Russell Westbrook had planned to talk to Michele Roberts, the National Basketball Players Association executive director, about the Wizards' options to stay safe.
The shooting guard said that in addition to the Wizards wanting to stay injury-free, players around the league have had "mixed feelings" about wanting to continue to play and make money while also keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.
"We already have guys out with injury," Beal said. "Now we have a huge chunk of our team, like over 50%, with the virus now ... we hear from the league tonight, hear from them tomorrow and see what they want to do."
Before the postponement, the Wizards listed Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Troy Brown Jr., Ish Smith and Moritz Wagner as out for the game against the Bucks due to health and safety protocols.
Westbrook (quad) was reevaluated this week and remains out and Thomas Bryant (left ACL) is out for the season. Westbrook did some light work on the court Wednesday night and will travel with the team if they resume playing again on this upcoming road swing. Washington's next scheduled game is Sunday at San Antonio.
Brooks said he wasn't sure when Westbrook will be cleared to play.
The Washington coach said the team wasn't able to practice until Wednesday evening. The Wizards were scheduled to practice again on Thursday morning with about 15 to 16 hours between the two sessions, and then travel to Milwaukee. Brooks and Beal felt that the Wizards would not only have been at a disadvantage playing with such little practice time but they also would have put their players at risk of injury.
"It is going to put us in a very difficult position to have a game Friday night," Brooks said after the team's light practice. "If they make us play the game, obviously we have to play the game. I don't know how we are going to be able to play it but we are going to do the best we can, whatever the league tells us what to do. I believe in the league."
"[COVID-19] is around everyone," Brooks said. "This is not a hoax. There are over 400,000 Americans [who] have passed away with this virus. And we take it serious. You are obviously concerned."
Brooks also anticipates that the six Wizards out due to health and safety protocols likely will not be able to rejoin the team on the upcoming road swing at San Antonio, Houston and New Orleans.
"This virus, it's creative," Brooks said. "It figures out a way to penetrate and hit us and it has hit us pretty bad ... it is going to take some time to get back into game shape and these are the guys that are healthy. The other players, it is going to take even more, but we are going to be fine. There are other things in the world that are pretty bad right now."