NBA adjusts schedules for virus-affected teams, like Wizards

Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook reacts to a call during the fourth quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Houston. (Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo via AP)
Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook reacts to a call during the fourth quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Houston. (Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo via AP) (2021 Getty Images)

Washington’s second-half schedule might not be as jam-packed as first thought, after the NBA said Wednesday it was rescheduling some Wizards games after a half-dozen of their contests were postponed in recent weeks for virus-related reasons.

Portland will now visit Washington on Tuesday, a game that was originally set for the second half. Washington will play at Charlotte on Feb. 7, a game that was rescheduled from Jan. 20. And that means the Blazers, who were scheduled to visit the Hornets that day, will now go to Charlotte in the second half of the schedule.

The league has postponed 22 games so far this season, 21 of them since Jan. 10. The original intent was to push all those postponed games into the second half, when possible; now, the league said it would move some games into the first-half schedules, “with a specific focus on the teams with the most postponed games to date.”

That would certainly include Washington and Memphis, both of which have seen a league-high six games postponed. The Wizards went 13 days without games after six players tested positive for COVID-19 and three others had to sit out because of contact tracing. The Grizzlies will have gone 12 days without games if they play, as planned, in San Antonio on Saturday.

Some good news for the league on Wednesday: The Grizzlies said they were returning to practice.

And even better news: The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said Wednesday that only one player in the league tested positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days, down from 16 two weeks ago and 11 last week. It remains possible that some of the stronger protocols put in place earlier this month, such as not allowing players to leave hotels on road trips for almost any reason other than games or practices, may be somewhat loosened soon as well.

Without the schedule changes by the NBA, the Wizards and Grizzlies may have been looking at playing 41 times in 67 days during the second half of the season — which will stretch from March 11 through May 16.

Boston and Phoenix have had three games postponed apiece so far, and it’s not yet known publicly how their first-half schedules will be adjusted.