NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the league has no plans to pause its season despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across teams.

The league has been forced to postpone a total of five games, including three that were set to be played on Sunday, due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The National Hockey League announced on Monday it would take its Christmas break early amid similar challenges but Silver said the NBA did not have those plans.

"No plans right now to pause the season," Silver told NBA Today. "We have of course looked at all the options, but frankly we are having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now.

"As we look through these cases literally ripping through the country, let alone the rest of the world, I think we're finding ourselves where we sort of knew we were going to get to over the past several months, and that is this virus will not be eradicated, and we're going to have to learn to live with it. I think that's what we're experiencing in the league right now."

Numerous big names in the NBA have been forced into the league's health and safety protocols due to COVID-19 lately including Kevin Durant, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The NBA had sent a memo to teams on Sunday announcing new rules permitting replacement players who can be added upon losing players to protocols.

However, Silver said the league would not waver just yet on the requirements for protocols, with players who test positive needing to sit out for 10 days or until they get two negative PCR tests taken more than 24 hours apart.

"That's something, again, that it's not just our doctors but the medical community is looking at," he said. "I think they're already realising that you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players who are vaccinated and boosted.

"It seems the virus runs through their systems faster. They become not just asymptomatic but, more importantly, they're not shedding the virus anymore. That's the real concern in terms of others. And so we are actively looking at shortening the number of days players are out before they can return to the floor."

On the integrity of clubs experiencing outbreaks being forced to play on and hurriedly sign replacement players, Silver added: "I think there's a recognition that these are the cards that we've been dealt.

"Of course there's an amount of unfairness that comes with playing in certain cases with some teams where particular players are out because of COVID protocols, but the other advantage is we do have an 82-game season and we do have a long playoffs, and my sense is things will work out by the end of the season."

Udinese's Serie A clash with Salernitana did not take place on Tuesday after the visitors failed to turn up at the Dacia Arena.

It was already known that bottom side Salernitana would not make the trip after they were ordered not to travel by the local health authority due to a number of positive coronavirus cases in the squad.

Udinese, however, undertook their normal matchday routine and even named their starting XI.

Udinese director Pierpaolo Marino told DAZN: "The league is right not to postpone the game. They have a duty to protect the regularity of the league season and a game must not be postponed because a player tests positive.

"We went to Rome to play Lazio with seven players and our coach out with COVID-19 last season, and we won 3-1."

A similar situation happened last season when Napoli failed to turn up to face Juventus, with the Partenopei forced to forfeit the match.

Napoli subsequently won an appeal and the match was replayed.

Real Madrid have confirmed David Alaba and Isco returned positive tests for COVID-19.

The duo are the latest Madrid players to contract the virus, taking the total to eight in the space of a week.

Los Blancos revealed last Wednesday that Luka Modric and Marcelo had gone into quarantine after routine testing determined they had the illness.

Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo and Andriy Lunin then tested positive the following day, along with Carlo Ancelotti's son and technical assistant Davide.

All are absent for Madrid's scheduled trip to San Mames to face Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Ancelotti's side are six points clear at the top of LaLiga, having collected 43 points from their first 18 matches, but second-placed Sevilla can close the gap when they face Barcelona on Tuesday.

The National Hockey League will begin its Christmas break early due to coronavirus-related postponements. 

The league announced Monday that it will pause games for five days beginning Wednesday, with the schedule set to resume December 27. 

With that move, the final games before the break are set for Tuesday, with the Washington Capitals visiting the Philadelphia Flyers and the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The other eight games set to be played Tuesday already had been postponed due to COVID-19. 

Four of the five games scheduled for Monday also were postponed, with only the Dallas Stars-Minnesota Wild game taking place. 

The early break will officially wipe out all 19 games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, all but five of which already had been called off. 

Players are now set to report back to their teams on December 26 for testing, practice and travel. All members of a team's travelling party must have a negative COVID-19 test before entering a team facility upon return. 

Monday's decision came a day after the league said it would pause all games that involved cross-border travel between the United States and Canada, in addition to multiple individual teams being shut down due to positive COVID-19 tests. 

"With the number one priority of maintaining the health and safety of our NHL community, and amid changing and unpredictable conditions, we are determined to remain flexible and adaptable both in terms of scheduling and in adjusting protocols as necessary," the league said in a statement Sunday.   

 

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens have taken the number of NHL teams to shut down through the holiday break to nine due to coronavirus concerns.

It was announced by the league on Monday that the Blues Jackets' games against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday and Thursday had been postponed.

The Canadiens' games prior to the break had already been called off amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, with a total of 42 games now having been postponed this season.

Developments involving Columbus and Montreal came a day after the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs also shut down through the holiday break.

The Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers had already announced shut-downs.

Cross-border games between the United States and Canadian teams have been postponed through the holiday break due to the concern about travel been the two countries and "the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions".

The NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) are also discussing the matter of player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

A decision is expected to be announced in the coming days. 

The league has until January 10 to pull out of the Winter Games without being penalised financially, but it retains the right to cancel its plans up until players are scheduled to travel to Beijing in early February.

No spectators will be allowed in to watch India's tour of South Africa due to a soaring number of coronavirus cases.

Six days before the Test series starts at Supersport Park, Cricket South Africa (CSA) revealed matches will be staged behind closed doors in order to protect the players.

The Proteas and India will play three Tests and as many ODIs without fans in attendance.

A CSA statement said: "Cricket South Africa (CSA) has noted the interests of cricket fans and other stakeholders on the scheduling and the release of the details of ticket sales, in connection with the forthcoming India vs Proteas tour that is scheduled to begin in less than a week.

"Regrettably, CSA wishes to inform the most ardent fans of cricket as well as all sports lovers that owing to the increasing COVID cases around the world, and the fourth wave locally, the two cricketing bodies have taken a joint decision to protect the players and the tour by NOT making tickets available for the India vs Proteas offerings.

"This decision was taken in order to avoid any breaches that could compromise the tour from a COVID-risk perspective and to also maintain a hazard-free bubble environment."

Pholetsi Moseki, the CSA acting chief executive officer, said: "We acknowledge the interest expressed by the fans and other stakeholders on being able to return to stadiums and want to assure all cricket fans that this decision was not taken lightly, but was instead taken in the best interest of the game and in the interest of the health and safety of all patrons.

"Consequently, we urge all sport lovers to exercise absolute care, during these extraordinary times.

"I also wish to take this time to urge all South Africans to continue spreading the positive messages of VACCINATION, VACCINATION AND VACCINATION, because this is the only way that we can truly get our country back into its high economic activity, which will assist government to open up the economy and all its forms of economic activity, including allowing greater numbers of fans back into stadiums."

 

Rafael Nadal has tested positive for coronavirus on his return to Spain, leaving his participation at the Australian Open in doubt.

The 20-time major champion played at the Mubadala Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last weekend and declared his mission a success despite consecutive defeats on his return from a foot injury.

Indeed, Nadal had only competed in two matches since losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals in June before testing his long-term foot problem against Andy Murray and most recently Denis Shapovalov.

However, the 35-year-old's plans to feature in the Melbourne ATP 250 ahead of the Australian Open in early January have suffered a setback after he tested positive for COVID-19 upon landing in his home country on Monday.

Nadal revealed the news on Twitter as he posted: "I wanted to announce that on my return home after playing the Abu Dhabi tournament, I have tested positive for COVID in the PCR test that was performed on me when I arrived in Spain.

"Both in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi we passed controls every two days and all were negative, the last being on Friday and having the results on Saturday.

"I am having some unpleasant moments but I hope that I will improve little by little. I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me.

"As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyse my options. I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments!"

Nadal was eyeing the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, as his first major comeback, though he earlier admitted his entry was not guaranteed as he evaluated his foot injury and physical fitness.

"I cannot guarantee Australia one hundred per cent, because I need to go home and see how the body responds after these days," Nadal told reporters on Saturday. 

"I have time to make a decision. At this point in my career, I need to go day by day, study each movement well.

"I have been able to show a competitive level against good players even without being in perfect condition. There are things to improve but looking at things with perspective it has been a positive tournament [in Abu Dhabi].

"The main objective is to be healthy enough to do the things that I need to do and aspire to the objectives that I have always had. The illusion and passion continue to exist."

The ATP Tour event in Melbourne, which would be Nadal's first such tournament since August, is due to start on January 3.

The National Hockey League (NHL) has postponed games between American and Canadian sides due to COVID-19 outbreaks, while players' participation at the 2022 Winter Olympics is in doubt.

The league announced on Sunday that 27 games had already been postponed as of the previous day, with the NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) jointly reporting at least 12 more games would be cancelled through to December 23.

That is due to the fixtures involving travel between the United States and Canada, as the league continues to make a decision on postponements and monitor the "enhanced prevention and detection measures" daily.

"Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among [layers, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness," a league statement read. 

"Therefore, the NHLPA's and NHL's medical experts have determined that, with virtually all players and club hockey staff fully vaccinated, the need to temporarily shut down individual teams should continue to be made on a case-by-case basis. 

"With the number one priority of maintaining the health and safety of our NHL community, and amid changing and unpredictable conditions, we are determined to remain flexible and adaptable both in terms of scheduling and in adjusting protocols as necessary."

Six NHL teams have been forced to shut down in the past week as the Detroit Red Wings became the latest, joining the Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers.

The NHL and NHLPA are also actively discussing the matter of NHL player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

A decision is expected to be announced in the coming days. 

The league has until January 10 to pull out of the Winter Games without being penalised financially, but it retains the right to cancel its plans up until players are scheduled to travel to Beijing in early February.

Chicago Bulls' DeMar DeRozan said he felt "as free as a bird" as he returned from isolation with a star turn against the Los Angeles Lakers.

DeRozan had not played in over two weeks after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols amid a COVID-19 outbreak within the Bulls' camp.

He was one of 10 Chicago players to have to quarantine, though did not suffer any symptoms, and he marked his comeback in emphatic style on Sunday.

DeRozan had 38 points, including decisive free throws inside the last 20 seconds, four rebounds and six assists as Chicago claimed a 115-110 win.

He leads the way for the Bulls on points per game (26.8) this season and despite his stint in quarantine, only Zach LaVine (703) has scored more points for Chicago so far in 2021-22 than DeRozan (671). 

DeRozan is also averaging 8.2 points per game in the fourth quarter this season, the most in the league.

"I felt free as a bird," DeRozan told reporters, as quoted by ESPN.

"Just getting out there, being with those guys, being in front of the fans. Just getting out the basement I was in for 10 days."

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was hugely impressed.

"When the ball is in his hands, there's just a calmness to him," Donovan said.

"He doesn't get rattled. He's been in so many of these moments throughout his life and his career. I think things slowed down for him.

"He knows exactly what he has to get done, what needs to get done and he finds ways to just stay totally locked in. It's really an incredible gift that he has."

Indeed, Carmelo Anthony, who had 21 points for the Lakers, acknowledged DeRozan was at the top of his game.

"The fact that he utilizes the midrange, a lot of people want to kind of discredit that part of the game, but I think that's a lost art," the Lakers forward said.

"DeMar is one of the guys who's mastered that. And at the end of the game, when you gotta down, and you gotta run something, threes are not falling, you gotta get to that. He mastered that.

"He mastered his spots on the court. I think that's why he's very efficient, especially this season, in the fourth quarter, specifically down the stretch."

The victory moved the Bulls to 18-10 for the season, with Chicago well placed in second in the Eastern Conference behind the Brooklyn Nets.

The NBA has postponed a total of five games, including three that were set to be played on Sunday, due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The Brooklyn Nets have lost a significant number of players to positive tests, with 10 players presently in the health and safety protocols – a list that includes stars such as James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – and their games against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and the Washington Wizards two days will not go ahead.

The Eastern Conference leaders had just eight fit players for Saturday's 100-93 defeat against the Orlando Magic, who are 6-25 and sit just 14th in the table.

Meanwhile, seven Cleveland Cavaliers players tested positive between Saturday and Sunday, meaning they do not meet the minimum requirement of eight healthy players and are unable to play the Atlanta Hawks, according to NBA rules.

The game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans will also be postponed, with the former also struggling to come up with eight fit players.

However, it is possible the Sixers will be able to return to action against the Boston Celtics on Monday.

Monday features yet another suspended game, though, as the Magic's clash with the Toronto Raptors is also not going ahead due to a number of cases at Orlando.

The NBA has now had to postpone seven games this season after the Chicago Bulls' fixtures with the Detroit Pistons and the Raptors were called off earlier this month.

Kevin Durant is the latest Brooklyn Nets star to enter the NBA's coronavirus protocols.

Durant was already ruled out of Saturday's game against the Orlando Magic due to an ankle injury.

The Nets revealed the 11-time All-Star would not have been able to play in that match even without that issue, however, after he joined a lengthy list of absentees who have entered the health and safety protocols.

That list is now up to nine, one of which is point guard Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, which has sidelined superstar and former MVP James Harden, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Kyrie Irving will re-join the Brooklyn Nets after the NBA championship-chasing franchise announced the part-time return of the All-Star for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlook him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, which has sidelined superstar and former MVP James Harden, Brooklyn have opted to bring back Irving.

"After discussions with our coaches, players and staff, the organisation has decided to have Kyrie Irving re-join the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate," Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement on Friday, with Brooklyn's next road contest against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 23.

"We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols.

"We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster.

"We look forward to Kyrie's return to the line-up, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

With Harden missing the last three games while in health and safety protocols, Kevin Durant is averaging 39.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists. The Nets are 3-0 in those games.

Tournament organisers and the Cameroon government on Thursday stated the Africa Cup of Nations "must take place" as they revealed only fans who are fully vaccinated can enter stadiums.

There have been increasing concerns the competition may be called off due to the emergence of the Omicron strain of COVID-19.

The tournament was due to be staged in January and February this year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Just over three weeks before the opening ceremony at the Complexe Sportif d'Olembe, the government, Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Cameroonian Football Association (FECAFOOT) released a statement vowing that the rearranged AFCON 2021 will go ahead.

The statement said: "In Cameroon, as has been the case elsewhere, effective and reliable measures have been taken as part of a coherent and tried-and-tested approach to counter the pandemic.

"The government has set up a special health protocol to combat COVID-19 that applies to the AFCON.

"In less than 25 days, the best 24 African football teams will participate in the AFCON 2021 and special measures must be taken in connection with this important and prestigious event.

"As is widely known, organised football plays an important role in fostering integration and peace, as well as bringing people together.

"It is also a catalyst of hope, a vehicle for shared values and a conduit for joie de vivre, making it possible to transcend difficulties and see beyond our differences. Therefore, despite the additional challenge posed by the pandemic, the AFCON must take place."

The statement also made clear that supporters will not be allowed into venues unless they are fully vaccinated, while they must also show a negative PCR test result that is no older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test result no older than 24 hours.

CAF will use an independent, internationally recognised laboratory to test players and their delegations.

Charles Leclerc has returned from the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with coronavirus, Ferrari have announced.

Leclerc came 10th in the contentious 2021 finale to end a disappointing campaign seventh in the drivers' standings.

Only 19 drivers competed in the race at the Yas Marina Circuit after Nikita Mazepin contracted COVID-19.

And Leclerc has followed in returning a positive test after heading home.

"Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver @Charles_Leclerc has tested positive for COVID-19," Ferrari said in a short statement on Twitter.

"In accordance with protocols required by FIA and the team, Charles was tested on his return from Abu Dhabi.

"He is currently feeling fine, with mild symptoms and will self-isolate at home."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is urging footballers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that vaccine take-up is not as high among elite footballers as within the rest of society.

A story in British tabloid The Sun last week said Premier League clubs feared the government would ban unvaccinated players, suggesting there remains a reasonable proportion holding out.

The Premier League last released vaccination data in mid-October, at which point it was said only 68 per cent of players were fully vaccinated – in terms of wider society, over 80 per cent of adults aged 16 or older in England reported having been double-jabbed as early as July.

Vaccination has become an especially hot topic in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks amid the increase in football match postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and UEFA is beginning a drive to promote the vaccine over the coming months.

"We've just launched a video promoting vaccination, it will go out tomorrow, I think," Ceferin told a news conference on Thursday.

"We should promote the vaccine and we will. We don't have the power to force anyone to be vaccinated, but the promotion starts today and in my humble opinion the video is good because only doctors talk in it.

"They explain why the vaccine is so important. They are experts saying the vaccine is good because of this, this and this, and that side effects are very rare. We will start promoting the vaccine now."

Bayern Munich were reported to have taken a particularly strong stance against unvaccinated players, with claims they would dock wages of anyone forced to into quarantine if they had not been jabbed.

As many as five Bayern players – including Joshua Kimmich – were said to have delayed getting the vaccine, while it emerged in October that several members of the England squad were still unvaccinated.

However, Ceferin remains hopeful that such situations will soon be a rarity.

"For me, I believe in science," he said. "I got vaccinated, and I think [the players] should get vaccinated] as soon as possible, but I still believe for now it's a personal choice.

"People aren't stupid. If you explain in a nice way, not judging them, explain why it's good.

"All figures show vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and all vaccinated people are less likely to have strong effects of COVID if they are infected.

"Sooner or later, if not all, the vast majority will understand it."

Ceferin was also asked to address the challenges of matches not being able to go ahead because of outbreaks, with particular focus on Tottenham.

Their Europa Conference League match with Rennes was unable to go ahead last week and UEFA ruled it could not find a "viable solution in order to reschedule the match".

Spurs are reportedly still attempting to find a workaround, including the possibility of playing the game in France rather than London, but they remain in a tricky situation after their clash with Leicester City was also postponed.

UEFA referred the case to their disciplinary arm and as such Spurs may have to forfeit the game with a 3-0 defeat – Ceferin accepts it may feel unjust but insisted these regulations ensure football's integrity.

"We have our regulations that are clear," he said. "Maybe they're sometimes hard to understand, but without them I don't think we could finish last season without stopping it.

"I know it sometimes looks unfair that a team has to play a certain match in a certain timeframe or the result is 3-0 for the other team, but if we didn't have clear rules then we wouldn't be able to finish the season.

"I sincerely hope we won't need those regulations soon."

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