The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, September 28, 2021 1:00 am

NBA

Vaccination rate climbing as camps open

TIM REYNOLDS | Associated Press

Utah center Rudy Gobert revealed that after much deliberation, he decided to become vaccinated. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has gotten his booster shot already. Boston coach Ime Udoka had his shots and tested positive for COVID-19 anyway.

And Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving is keeping everyone guessing.

The NBA season arrived Monday with media days in advance of training camp, with the ongoing pandemic as much if not even more of a topic than basketball. This will be the third season affected at least in part by the pandemic, almost certainly not the last, and some teams revealed that their rosters are 100% vaccinated entering the season.

“When I felt like it was the right time, I did it,” said Gobert – the first NBA player who was known to test positive for COVID-19, back on March 11, 2020.

Same goes for Giannis Antetokounmpo of the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, who still isn't totally sure if the vaccine will present issues down the road.

But much like sentiments expressed by Portland's Damian Lillard and Memphis' Ja Morant, Antetokounmpo – a father of two – said his family played a major role in his decision to get vaccinated.

“I did what was best for me and my family's safety. ... You do whatever it takes for you and your family to be OK,” Antetokounmpo said.

The Spurs have a fully vaccinated roster, Popovich said.

The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers said last week that they would have the same, and some other clubs – including Utah, Portland, Houston and Charlotte – said they were at the 100% mark. 

Other teams are close to being fully vaccinated.

Leaguewide, the rate is believed to be around 90% and climbing.

Players who are vaccinated will not be tested often; unvaccinated players will be tested on all practice days and travel days, and at least once on game days.

But camps are opening. A regular 82-game season is planned. Fans will be back in buildings.

Popovich, the NBA's longest-tenured current coach who said he qualified for his booster shot already because he's in his 90s – he's really only 72 – may have summed up the order of things in the NBA now perfectly with this assessment: “Normalcy, with a good dose of caution.”

“I think getting vaccinated is your choice,” Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “I think it's absolutely your choice. But at the same time, we're trying to protect the entire NBA. Not just our team, but the entire NBA.”

In Denver, sharpshooting forward Michael Porter Jr. has agreed to a five-year maximum extension with the Nuggets that could be worth up to $207 million.

Porter's agreement would be worth at least $173 million over five years and could rise to the supermax level of $207 million over that span.

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