COVID-19 had a big impact on the Dallas Mavericks last season. Due to a slew of players missing time being in the league’s health and safety protocols – including superstar Luka Doncic – Dallas was forced to play guys on emergency 10-day contracts significant minutes. The Mavs had a 16-18 record by the end of their COVID spell, but they were able to rebound well by finishing with home-court advantage and a 52-30 record.
In 2020, the pandemic forced the league to detour the postseason to Orlando in a “bubble” format.
In 2021, most arenas still limited capacity, and players shuffled in and out of COVID protocols.
And in 2022, along with the aforementioned Mavs’ woes, it also shook the core of the Brooklyn Nets as Kyrie Irving became the face of the anti-vaccine movement, leading to the downfall of one of the league’s super teams.
It doesn’t appear that COVID-19 will have the same impact in 2022-23, though, as the NBA announced in a league-wide memo that it will not have a vaccine mandate next season. Yahoo! Sports was the first to report the news.
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The memo also revealed that testing may not be required for unvaccinated players like Irving, but that topic will be discussed with the Players’ Association at a later date.
Could a rule change like this affect the Mavs’ potential interest in a trade for Irving? Earlier this offseason, Dallas was reported as being on Irving’s list for teams he’d like to be traded to, but it was then also reported later that the Mavs didn’t have any interest in trading for Irving. If vaccine mandates are gone, that means Irving would be able to play in every game next season, health permitting. For now, though, it seems like Irving could remain with the Nets for at least the start of next season.
With this news, it appears that the desperation that came in the middle of the season where most teams utilized the hardship exception to sign players to 10-day contracts won’t be a problem in the upcoming season.
The one exception to any COVID restrictions comes with games played in Toronto, because Canada still has stricter laws in place than the United States. Unvaccinated players like Irving won’t be able to play games on the road against the Toronto Raptors unless the laws soften up or if the player gets vaccinated.
All of this news is subject to change, and considering how the NBA has been fluid in its COVID policies, there leaves room for a potential shift if necessary.