Storm-Lynx WNBA semifinal series to start Tuesday after postponement

The WNBA announced that Game 1 of the WNBA semifinal matchup between Seattle and Minnesota will take place Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The game was postponed Sunday after there were inconclusive COVID-19 test results for three Storm players, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a teleconference Tuesday afternoon.

The players in question underwent extensive additional testing and all were cleared to rejoin the team, the league said Tuesday, although one player's final test result wasn't back until late in the day.

"You all know how complex this virus is, how unpredictable it is," Engelbert said. "And as we sat here and tried to evaluate all the tools and data that we have, we feel very good about having Seattle and Minnesota play tonight."

Engelbert said that continued testing and contact tracing gave the league confidence to move forward. Four of the league's 12 teams are still in the WNBA's bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and all remaining players and staff will continue testing under the league's health and safety protocols.

The other semifinal, matching Connecticut and Las Vegas, began Sunday with the Sun's 87-62 victory. The Sun and Aces will play their second game at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2. They were on court playing when the news came Sunday of the inconclusive tests with Seattle. The Storm were not yet at the arena, although the Lynx were.

The WNBA also had at least three inconclusive COVID-19 tests during the regular season, and those players -- who individually sat out a game and went into brief isolation while their teams played -- all then tested negative. Engelbert was asked the difference between that response in the regular season and the postponement of the Storm-Lynx game.

"Every one of these is different," Engelbert said of the inconclusive results. "It's not just an inconclusive -- you get data from that inconclusive, like the cycle-threshold count, which will be very different for different tests and different individuals.

"The main difference here is there were multiple. We started to look at the data we were getting in real time as Seattle was boarding the bus on Sunday. You have to determine what's going on here. Is there an infection or exposure that might spread through the campus by putting them on the court? Would you risk that, especially against another team? Was it just this team?

"It's not just positive/negative/inconclusive/indeterminate -- which are all terms that get thrown out when we get tested -- this case was [about] the data that we were getting and the multiple players."

The cycle threshold value, essentially, is the number of cycles needed for the virus to be detected from the person's sample in the RT-PCR test.

"We have a variety of tools at our disposal for testing," Engelbert said. "We've used a saliva test. We've used nasal swabs paired with an oral swab. We have different technologies running these tests as well.

"The lab reports the results, and we evaluate them from a clinical perspective. We did not have that many [inconclusive tests during this season]. We were evaluating this very closely, because we hadn't had multiple people on one day. So that's why we made the decision to postpone the game. We needed to ensure the integrity of the bubble, and that's what we've done here."

The WNBA allowed players with a certain number of years' experience to pay to have a guest in the bubble with them during this season. Once the semifinals started, other players were allowed to have a guest go in, but Engelbert said they went through the same strict quarantine and testing protocol as everyone else did back when the bubble was first set up in early July.

Engelbert also was asked if there was a plan in place had the Storm players been positive for COVID-19 and perhaps infected the entire team. Would the Storm have had to forfeit?

"We had foreseen situations like this," Engelbert said. "We did put a communication out to the four semifinal teams that we need to evaluate each situation and circumstance, whether it was for any reason. A hurricane made landfall last week -- north of here, not in Bradenton -- but what would happen there, and would we think about postponing? Certainly, COVID was on that list, too.

"Forfeit will come into play if, for instance, a substantial portion of the team [couldn't play]. But that didn't happen in this situation."