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More games off as NBA still struggles with virus

AP photo Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash points during the third quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks Wednesday in New York.

Another three NBA games were postponed Friday, including one in Minnesota only a couple hours before game time, as the league’s struggle with increasing coronavirus numbers continued.

Among the revelations Friday: Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns , whose mother and six other relatives have died from COVID-19, said he has tested positive.

The Washington Wizards said that they have six players who are positive as well, and another three players out because contact tracing data suggested they could have been exposed.

The Timberwolves’ game with the Memphis Grizzlies was called off, as were what would have been Wizards’ home games Sunday and Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The current tally of postponements: 13 since the start of the season, 12 of them — involving 16 of the NBA’s 30 teams — since Sunday alone. Washington has seen four of its games pushed back, Boston and Phoenix have had three postponements. The Celtics returned to the floor Friday night against Orlando, Boston’s first game in a week.

“We’re all very grateful to be here and get a chance to play and compete,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Miami — which lost two games at Philadelphia this week with only eight players available — could get as many as six of its eight COVID-affected players who have missed time this week, largely because of contact tracing, back Saturday for a game against Detroit. All-Star Jimmy Butler will remain out, the Heat said, as will Avery Bradley.

The Wizards are just hoping to be able to have players in to resume workouts. No basketball has been played in their facility for most of this week; between COVID-related issues, and injuries to Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant, Washington has six players available right now.

The Wizards last played Monday, against Phoenix. The earliest they’ll play again is this coming Wednesday in Charlotte — and even that would seem iffy, based on what will likely be a lack of practice time in the coming days. The Suns had a three-game homestand wiped away because they didn’t have enough cleared players.

“I think four teams have missed multiple games,” Sheppard said. “I think that’s a small victory considering what’s going on out there around the league.”

Minnesota’s next game on the schedule is Monday, the league’s traditional game on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Atlanta.

The news that any player has the virus would be crushing, and that it was Towns was particularly so given what his family has endured.

Postponed games, when possible, will be made up in the second half of the season, which will take place from March 11 — the one-year anniversary of last season shutting down because of the pandemic — through May 16.

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