When asked directly over the past 24 hours if their teams have been fully vaccinated, both the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers declined to comment on ESPN — opening the door to the possibility that both teams will lose players in road games from their first-round series. against the Toronto Raptors.
Entering play Wednesday, the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Celtics and 76ers are at one loss to each other at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, meaning they could end up in any order between now and the end of the regular season on April 10.
So any of them could face the prospect of having to fly to Toronto for the first round of the playoff series against the Raptors. From January 15, players need a full vaccination to enter Canada.
The Heat and Bucks confirmed to ESPN that their teams have been fully vaccinated, so they won’t have any problems in Toronto.
On Monday, the Celtics played their first game in Toronto since the vaccination requirement went into effect, and they lost in overtime.
After beating the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Sunday, Boston eliminated four players from Monday’s game in Toronto, the second night of a game in a row: Robert Williamswho injured the meniscus in his left knee on Sunday; Alhorfordwho missed Sunday and Monday matches for personal reasons; Jason Tatum, who were recorded by the Celtics as suffering from right patellar tendinopathy; And the Jaylyn Brownlisted as having right knee pain.
Sources told ESPN that Williams was vaccinated. Tatum said on Celtics Media Day he was vaccinated, but added that no one should be judged for choosing otherwise.
“I mean, that’s your decision,” Tatum said. “I fully understand the concerns of those who have not been vaccinated and who do not want to, and I understand that people like me have done so. It is your personal health and your reason. No one should be judged one way or the other, whatever their decision.”
Brown said at the time that the vaccine was a personal choice.
“I have my own thoughts about it, but I respect my teammates’ decisions and things like that,” Brown said. “I know everyone has their own opinions about it but I think it’s a personal choice.”
Brown and Horford both entered NBA health and safety protocols in October, and Horford did so again in December.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia has not played in Toronto since the rule change went into effect. The 76ers, who first played the Raptors in Toronto on December 28, will play again on April 7 to wrap up a three-game road trip.
Wednesday’s Celtics (47-29) enter third in the Eastern Group, half a game behind the second-placed Bucks (47-28). The 76er sits fourth at 46-29, and is the Celtics half-back game. The Raptors (43-32) are sixth half a game behind the fifth-placed Chicago Bulls (44-32). The Cleveland Cavaliers play behind the Raptors for seventh.
Qualifiers are set to begin on April 16 and 17, with Games 3 and 4 of the first round – which will take place in Toronto – likely to begin three weeks later than Wednesday.
To be considered fully immune in Canada, a person must have been two weeks after one injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks after the second shot of the two-dose vaccines. This means that unvaccinated players will have about a week to receive a single dose vaccine in order to receive a full vaccination in time to play each match of the first round series.
The most notable example of a player missing games due to not being vaccinated is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was unable to play games in New York, either at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, before the city changed vaccination regulations last week to allow it. Athletes who are not immunized to play at home.
Irving played his first game in New York on Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets.
Irving’s condition has been a topic all season because of the state. There were no such restrictions in Boston or Philadelphia, however, vaccination status is not a problem.
With the playoffs looming — and with them, a possible showdown with the Raptors in the first round, or beyond — that is no longer the case.