CLEVELAND — Just hours before the Cavaliers are set to tip off against the defending league champions, they learned they will be without another one of their star players due to COVID-19 guidelines.
The team announced Saturday afternoon that rookie center Evan Mobley has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and will miss tonight's game against the Milwaukee Bucks. The 2021 first-round pick is the second Cleveland player to be sidelined by the protocols this week, with wingman Isaac Okoro also out.
Like the rest of the sports world, the NBA has been rocked by a recent coronavirus surge, with some teams being forced to postpone games due to a lack of healthy players. Also on Saturday, the Brooklyn Nets confirmed star forward Kevin Durant is currently in the protocols.
According to NBA rules, a vaccinated player who tests positive for COVID can only return if he does not have a fever and later tests negative twice at least 24 hours apart. In addition, those who are vaccinated but come into close contact with someone who has the virus do not have to quarantine, but must be tested daily for a week.
The association recently updated its health measures to call for more mask wearing by personnel, and testing will increase beginning after Christmas through Jan. 8. In addition, team owners are reportedly exploring an expansion of the league's hardship exemption that would allow clubs left short-handed by the virus to sign additional replacement players.
Off to an 18-12 start, the Cavs have emerged as one of the NBA's biggest surprises this season. Helping to lead the charge has been Mobley, who is averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game to establish himself as a prime Rookie of the Year candidate.
Mobley last played this past Monday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland's win over the Miami Heat, but sat out two nights later against the Houston Rockets with a hip issue that had already left him questionable for Saturday. The Cavaliers and Bucks are set to tip off tonight at 9 p.m. from the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo also currently in the protocols.