Call it Aaron’s Judge Rule or Mike Lupica’s Rule:
“When an athlete is asked if he succeeded in the shot and then he refuses to answer, it means that he did not succeed.”*
That was the position the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics found themselves in last week. There are four teams that could head to Canada, where unvaccinated players are not allowed to enter, in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Two of them, the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks, told ESPN that all of their players have been vaccinated. The Sixers and Celtics wouldn’t say, and you know what that means:
They have unvaccinated players. A corollary of MLR is that it is generally important too: fringe players cannot risk throwing plays. In Boston, the Globe reported that “two frontline players” had not been vaccinated, and rumors and inferences quickly swarmed towards Jaylen Brown and Al Horford, who missed a game in Toronto with two players vaccinated. . Brown and Horford decline to say if they’re vaccinated yet — you know what that means — but both say they’d be ready for any hypothetical playoff game.
In Philadelphia, there was some confusion. Every significant remote player on the team had declared having been vaccinated or would have been vaccinated. When the first injury report for Thursday’s game against the Raptors came out, all that confusion disappeared; the report was simply wrong. Bulldog defender Matisse Thybulle is not vaccinated and has therefore been listed as ‘ineligible to play’. The Philadelphia Inquirer quickly changed language in an old story about Thybulle and others who contracted COVID from “these players were all vaccinated” to “the belief was that all of these players were vaccinated.” The Sixers have known about Thybulle’s vaccination status issue for at least a month, according to PhillyVoice.
Thybulle’s offensive stats are a pittance at five points and two boards per game, but he’s absolutely vital to what the Sixers are doing. He’s among the NBA’s leaders in steals and blocks, and is easily Philadelphia’s best perimeter defender. He provides defense and depth to a team that is sorely lacking in both.
Canada defines “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which means if he got his shot on Thursday, the sooner than he could play in a Sixers-Raptors series is two weeks away starting Thursday, April 21. With the playoffs starting on April 16, it’s likely that Thybulle will miss at least one potential game in Toronto.
Ironically, Kyrie Irving ruined Brooklyn’s regular season so badly with his decision not to get vaccinated that it probably won’t be a problem for the Nets. The Raptors are nearly locked into the fifth seed, while all the Nets have to do to clinch the seventh seed is win and win a single game at home. As the No. 7 seed, the Nets would only face the Raptors in a highly unlikely conference final. And speaking of Irving, even if the circus that unfolded at Barclays was largely his fault, you could at least point out that New York City is an extreme exception with an industry vaccine mandate. private.
Despite the growls of Adam Silver or Ime Udoka or basketball and baseball writers, that’s not really the situation here. The United States also requires non-citizens to be vaccinated to enter the country; Novak Djokovic cannot currently participate in any US tennis tournament and has already missed one because he is not vaccinated.
Separately, James Harden, Doc Rivers and the Sixers have all created their own spectacular series of playoff meltdowns over the past decade. You can only laugh if what brings them down this time is that Harden was rightly so desperate to escape to Brooklyn.
* The only known exception at MLR is Pete Alonso, who took part in a series of “get the shot” public service announcements last year and then, rushing to cover his many unvaccinated teammates, called the vaccine a personal choice. Alonso dropped the prank this spring and admitted he had been vaccinated from the start.