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As COVID-19 cases rise, NBA emphasizes action on booster shots for players, coaches

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The NBA has raised the level of urgency regarding getting booster shots against the coronavirus, telling players and coaches that it is no longer advisable to wait before receiving the additional dose.

The booster shots should be received “as soon as possible, particularly in light of the current coronavirus situation and increasing cases,” the league told teams Friday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.

Earlier in the week, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said they were recommending the booster shots be received by those who are fully vaccinated, suggesting that it be done by Dec. 1 in most cases.

But with positivity rates rising in many areas of the country and the rate of COVID-19 community transmission in most NBA markets considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be “high” or “substantial,” the league and union felt the additional urgency is warranted. The NBA has seen an increased positivity rate among vaccinated players, team staff and family members of late, which is consistent with the trends in many places around the nation.

At least eight players are known to be in the league’s health and safety protocols, meaning they are believed to have tested positive for COVID-19. Another who had been in the protocols, Philadelphia‘s Tobias Harris, played Thursday night in his first game back since testing positive.

Harris missed six games and had been dealing with symptoms.

“I’m working my way back into it,” Harris said.

Other NBA players currently known to be in the league’s protocols include Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe, San Antonio teammates Jakob Poeltl and Jock Landale, Cleveland teammates Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen, and Chicago‘s Nikola Vucevic.

People who are fully vaccinated are still strongly protected against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But immunity against infection can wane over time, and the extra-contagious delta variant is spreading widely. The NBA — following the lead of U.S. health authorities — wants to shore up protection in at-risk people who were vaccinated months ago.

The guidance from the league earlier in the week made clear that those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago should prioritize getting a Pfizer or Moderna booster quickly. Those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than six months ago were also told earlier in the week to seek boosters.

About 97% of NBA players have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the league has said. The most notable holdout is Brooklyn‘s Kyrie Irving, a perennial All-Star who is not being allowed by the Nets to play until he gets vaccinated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Milwaukee Bucks signing center DeMarcus Cousins to non-guaranteed deal

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The Milwaukee Bucks are signing four-time All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, sources told ESPN on Sunday.

Cousins, 31, will sign a non-guaranteed deal to join the defending NBA champions, sources said. Teams must guarantee contracts for the balance of the season by Jan. 7.

The Bucks have been without center Brook Lopez because of a back injury and needed some more size to bolster their front line. Cousins played parts of the 2020-21 season with the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers, including some significant stretches of good play in the Clippers’ run to the Western Conference finals.

Cousins has averaged 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in his 10-year NBA career, which includes two significant lower-leg injuries in recent years — a torn ACL and an Achilles tear. He has been a four-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA second-team selection (2015 and 2016).

He played seven years with the Sacramento Kings until a trade to New Orleans in 2017, and signed successive free-agent deals with Golden State, Houston, the Clippers and now the Bucks.

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Grizzlies’ Ja Morant avoided significant knee injury, expected to miss at least ‘couple weeks,’ Taylor Jenkins says

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Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant avoided a serious knee injury but is expected to miss at least a “couple of weeks,” coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters ahead of Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.

Jenkins said Morant avoided any tears or ligament damage to his left knee but added that there was no official timetable for his return.

“We’re so thankful we avoided a significant injury,” Jenkins said. “We expect a full recovery, and this is nothing long term that we’re worried about.”

Morant suffered the left knee sprain in the first quarter of Friday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

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Orlando Magic’s Wendell Carter Jr., Miami Heat’s Dewayne Dedmon fined by NBA

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NEW YORK — Orlando Magic center-forward Wendell Carter Jr. and Miami Heat center Dewayne Dedmon were fined by the NBA on Sunday.

Carter was fined $35,000 for ” forcefully throwing ” his protective glasses at a game official in the Magic’s loss at Cleveland on Saturday night. He received a technical foul and was ejected with 2 minutes, 9 seconds remaining.

Dedmon was docked $15,000 for kicking a seat cushion from the team bench into the spectator stands Saturday night in a victory at Chicago. He was assessed a technical foul and ejected early in the fourth quarter.

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