Golden State Warriors' Jordan Poole, Boston Celtics' Al Horford, Grant Williams in COVID-19 proto...

ByTim Bontemps ESPN logo
Saturday, December 18, 2021

BOSTON -- Ahead of Friday night's game here at TD Garden between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, a total of six players -- five Celtics and Warriors guard Jordan Poole -- entered the NBA's health and safety protocols, as a renewed surge of COVID-19 continues to barrel through the league.

In the 24 hours leading up to the game, five players -- forwards Jabari Parker, Juancho Hernangomez, Grant WilliamsandSam Hauser and center Al Horford -- all went into the protocols, while guard Dennis Schroderwas set to miss Friday's game with a non-COVID-19 illness.

"I wouldn't say it's frustrating. It's something everybody is playing through," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. "You've seen Chicago and Brooklyn and other teams hit with it.

"It's something we've been trying to avoid, but it seems inevitable at times for everybody. You have to tinker with the lineups at times, but we have other guys who are able, and we'll increase those minutes. Nothing else you can do. We have 11 healthy bodies."

Romeo Langford went into the starting lineup for Boston in Horford's place, while rookie Moses Moody started for Golden State in place of Poole.

Udoka and Warriors coach Steve Kerr said they didn't anticipate any additional absences before the start of the game.

Both teams canceled shootaround Friday morning ahead of the game, as they -- like the rest of the NBA -- continue to grapple with the recent surge in positive cases. Shortly thereafter, both announced their newest entries into the protocols: Poole for Golden State, and Horford and Williams for Boston.

Parker went into them Thursday night, while Hauser and Hernangomez did Friday night. Udoka said the Celtics have cleared their pregame testing window, meaning he expected no more additions to the protocols before Boston took on Golden State in an attempt to carry some momentum over from Monday's victory here over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.

"Just being more diligent," Udoka said, when asked how Boston was trying to cope. "Our surroundings and the mask wearing is a big thing, who you're with outside of the building off the court, and that's pretty much it. We're trying to follow the protocols of the league and be more strict with what we're doing. We're impacted. It's hit us like the rest of the league -- something we've all had to adapt to and adjust to. It is what it is. We have healthy bodies and other guys get opportunities."

Udoka also said Boston isn't considering adding players via the hardship waiver, as others across the league -- including the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic -- have in recent days.

"It all just happened today," Udoka said. "We still have 11 able bodies, and I think some of the teams that are going through that have lost more people. ... We have five out as of now and obviously hope to get Dennis back with a non-COVID illness. [But] we haven't discussed that."

Poole, 22, is having a breakout season for the league-leading Warriors, averaging a career-high 17.9 points per game while starting all 28 games Golden State has played this season as the Warriors await Klay Thompson's return from injury.

Horford -- who tested positive for COVID-19 in October -- is averaging 12.2 points and 7.8 rebounds this season for Boston, which acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer in exchange for Kemba Walker and the 16th pick in July's NBA draft. It's Horford's second stint with Boston; he signed with the Celtics as a free agent in 2016 before leaving for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019.

Williams has developed into a steady member of Boston's rotation this season, averaging career highs of 7.5 points and 45.3% shooting from 3-point range on over three attempts per game.

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