PHOENIX — The NBA Finals are not immune to COVID-19 concerns.
A player, coach and referee were ruled out for Saturday’s Game 5 due to COVID health and safety protocols.
Milwaukee reserve Thanasis Antetokounmpo and assistant coach Josh Oppenheimer and referee Sean Wright were ruled out for Saturday’s game between the Bucks and Phoenix Suns. James Williams will take Wright’s spot.
With a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — the number has doubled in the past two weeks — the NBA is trying to ensure more players and staffers aren’t sidelined.
Antetokounmpo is the brother of Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Oppenheimer is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s workout coach on the court during pregame warmups.
“The health and safety protocols are on the front of everybody’s minds right now,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think we’re in a good place and ready to go.”
The league has strict protocols in place, including daily testing, and the Bucks were one of the NBA teams who had at least 80% of players and staffers receive vaccinations.
Both coaches were asked about the topic Friday and Saturday.
“We live in this world — whether it’s all 50 states going up or things that are happening closer to us at home,” Budenholzer said. “I think all the players, I think they’re locked in, being safe, being healthy. Hoping for the best for everybody around us and our country. But yeah, there’s a real push to stay safe, to stay healthy, to be vigilant. Both teams, we’re very, very close to the finish. We’re excited about finishing this strong.”
Suns coach Monty Williams conducted his pregame press conference on Saturday with a mask on, and Phoenix guard Chris Paul is aware of the situation.
“I pay attention to it just like everybody else,” Paul said. “Try to control what I can control. Stay in the moment with the Finals, but health is a huge concern not just for my family, but for everybody.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.