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NBA releases preseason schedule for Dec. 11-19

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As the NBA continues to move toward starting its 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, a slate of 49 preseason games will be played from Dec. 11 through Dec. 19 to allow teams to prepare for the upcoming campaign.

Each NBA team will play at least two preseason games — one at home and one on the road — and none will play more than four. The preseason schedule will begin with a five-game slate on Dec. 11 — highlighted by a meeting between the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and their co-tenants at Staples Center, the LA Clippers.

Other games of interest:

As part of Friday’s announcement, the NBA said it plans to release the first half of the league’s 72-game regular-season schedule “in the coming days.” The league had previously announced plans to present its schedule in blocks, with the first half coming out before the season and the second half being released at a later date.

The NBA came up with that plan to account for the possibility that games will inevitably need to be rescheduled due to complications from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and to allow for more flexibility in doing so.

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Boston Celtics’ third straight game off due to COVID

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Coronavirus issues continue to impact the Boston Celtics, with the league announcing that their game against the Orlando Magic Wednesday has been postponed.

The Magic and Celtics were scheduled to play Wednesday and Friday in Boston, but the Magic won’t be traveling Tuesday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The status of the second game is not immediately clear.

The NBA said in a statement that due to coronavirus testing and contact tracing the Celtics didn’t have the required eight players to stage the game.

This will be the third straight game the Celtics have had postponed due to COVID issues. They were supposed to play the Heat Sunday and the Bulls Tuesday night.

Five NBA games have now been postponed this season due to coronavirus issues, with four of those coming in the last week.

Sources told Wojnarowski that the NBA and players’ union are working on tightening protocols, including: No hugging or interacting with rival players on court pre- and post-game, reducing social interactions during games, such as tapping hands during free throws and enforcing mask wearing on the bench by players and coaches.

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NBA fines Los Angeles Lakers’ Markieff Morris, Houston Rockets’ DeMarcus Cousins

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Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris was fined $35,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for his “on-court altercation” with Houston Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins following Morris’ flagrant 1 foul on Jae’Sean Tate during Sunday’s game.

Cousins was fined $10,000 for the testy exchange with Morris.

Morris and Cousins were called for double technical fouls with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter of the Rockets’ 120-102 loss to L.A. for getting into a shoving match after Morris’ foul on Tate.

Cousins was given his technical for shoving Morris to the floor after the foul on Tate, and Morris “further escalated the situation” by “aggressively” chasing after Cousins and shoving him. Morris was ejected.

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Sources — Kyrie Irving not expected to rejoin Brooklyn Nets this week; NBA expected to review maskless videos

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As the NBA is reviewing videos circulating on social media of a maskless Kyrie Irving at what appears to be a family birthday party, there is no belief the Brooklyn Nets guard will return to the team’s lineup this week, sources told ESPN.

Irving was already ruled out of his fourth straight game Tuesday night against Denver, and sources say that, at a minimum, he is expected to miss Wednesday’s game against New York and Saturday’s against Orlando. His absence has been attributed to personal reasons.

In the videos — which began being widely shared Monday night — a smiling Irving is dancing with his sister Asia on a confetti-covered floor and clapping as she blows out candles. If the video is found to be recent, that behavior could be a breach of the league’s coronavirus protocols.

The league’s COVID-19 guidelines forbid players from going to clubs, bars and lounges. They also ban attending social gatherings of more than 15 people.

This investigation comes during a turbulent week, as the league is reevaluating its coronavirus health and safety rules. The league has canceled three games this week as positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing quarantines mounted.

The NBA board of governors is holding a special meeting Tuesday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Team general managers had a call on Monday that was focused on tightening the protocols.

The NBA has investigated other health and safety violations this season. In December, Black Sports Online published a video of James Harden partying, without a mask, purportedly at a Houston club’s Christmas party. After an investigation, the league fined the Houston Rockets star $50,000 and he had to quarantine for four days while returning daily negative COVID-19 tests.

Harden never missed a game.

If a player misses a game for a COVID-19 violation, he would lose 1/72nd of his salary, according to league rules.

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