Paul George tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, avoided surgery and rushed to return to play in top form in time for the playoffs. All of that is for naught now, as his Clippers team will be without him in this “win or go home” single elimination game tonight versus the Pelicans.
George was ruled out by NBA health and safety protocols which is essentially code word for “tested positive for COVID.” There are no reports of whether he has symptoms from coronavirus and the possibility exists of a false negative but none of that will save him for this crucial contest.
OutKick’s Clay Travis discussed the situation during Friday’s OutKick The Show and said it’s madness that George is being forced to sit. Travis argued that if George had a cold or any other stomach bug illness, he would be permitted to play if he felt up to it.
This is a player’s (and team’s and fan’s) worst nightmare to have a post-season chance taken away. NFL players worried about this happening for the playoffs (or Super Bowl) and a bubble was considered (but scrapped). Instead, the league’s Chief Medical Officer indicated that NFL research showed asymptomatic players don’t spread COVID and essentially eliminated regular testing of players. Thus the NFL avoided any COVID issues in their playoffs.
A play in game is not the Super Bowl but the loser of this single contest is out. Right or wrong, this is the harsh reality of the lingering protocols. We have previously indicated there never would be a “Michael Jordan flu game” again (was there ever?) as players with symptoms have been routinely eliminated from competition as precaution or for positive tests.
New York City only recently allowed Kyrie Irving to play home games and that was spurred on by the possibility of Aaron Judge missing Yankee and multiple players missing Mets home games. However the NBA and MLB continue to be dogged by lingering issues. Two Mets players missed their home opener due to protocol. Matisse Thybulle of the Sixers is not eligible to play in Toronto even though his team plays the Raptors in the first round.
Sports leagues will need to figure this out as the concept of viral load that was explained ahead of the 2020 NFL season when few thought sports could be played has been accurate. In fact there has not been a single case of documented on-field transmission of COVID in professional football or soccer or rugby worldwide.
This sudden revelation certainly must feel unfair to fans as the Clippers will now be without their two top players and will have a decided health disadvantage versus the Pelicans.
If indeed the Clippers can win (as New Orleans is without Zion Williamson), they likely would have to win the first round series without Leonard or George. Leonard is unlikely to return this season from ACL surgery and the typical NBA absence after testing positive is one to two weeks and that would have George missing most if not all of any potential series versus the Suns.