When asked directly in the past 24 hours if their teams are fully vaccinated, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers declined to comment on ESPN – opening up the possibility that both teams could potentially miss players in games. on the way to a first-round playoff. against the Toronto Raptors.
Entering the game on Wednesday, the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Celtics and 76ers are one loss away from each other at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, meaning they could find themselves in any order by the end of the regular season on April 10. .
So any of them could face the possibility of having to travel to Toronto for a first-round playoff against the Raptors. Since January 15, players must be fully vaccinated to enter Canada.
The Heat and Bucks have confirmed to ESPN that their teams are fully vaccinated, so they won’t have any problems in Toronto.
The Celtics played their first game in Toronto on Monday since mandatory vaccinations took effect, and they lost in overtime.
After beating the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Sunday, Boston ruled out four players for Monday’s game in Toronto, the second night in a row: Robert Williams, who injured his left knee meniscus on Sunday; Al Horford, who missed Sunday’s and Monday’s matches for personal reasons; Jayson Tatum, who the Celtics listed as suffering from right patellar tendinopathy; and Jaylen Brown, who was on the right knee injury list.
Sources told ESPN that Williams was vaccinated. Tatum said at Celtics media day that he had been vaccinated, but added that no one should be judged for choosing otherwise.
“I mean, it’s your own decision,” Tatum said. “I fully understand the concerns of those who are unvaccinated who don’t want to, and I understand people like me who have. It’s your personal health and your reason. No one should be judged in a way or another, whatever their decision is.”
Brown said at the time that the vaccine was a personal choice.
“I have my own opinion on this, but I respect my teammates’ decisions and things like that,” Brown said. “I know everyone has their own opinion on this, 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.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, hasn’t played in Toronto since the rule change took effect. The 76ers, who first faced the Raptors in Toronto on Dec. 28, play them again on April 7 to wrap up a three-game road trip.
Entering the game on Wednesday, the Celtics (47-29) are third in the Eastern Conference, half a game behind the Bucks, second (47-28). The 76ers sit in fourth place at 46-29, half a game behind the Celtics. The Raptors (43-32), sixth, are half a game behind the Chicago Bulls, fifth (44-32). The Cleveland Cavaliers are one game behind the seventh-place Raptors.
The playoffs are scheduled to begin on April 16 and 17, with Games 3 and 4 of the first round – which would be held in Toronto – scheduled to be played in three weeks from Wednesday.
To be considered fully vaccinated in Canada, a person must have passed two weeks after a single injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks after the second injection of the two-dose vaccines. That would mean unvaccinated players would have about a week to receive the single-dose vaccine in order to be fully vaccinated in time to play every game in a first-round playoff series.
The starkest example of a player missing games because he wasn’t vaccinated is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was unable to play games in New York, whether at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, before the city changed its vaccination regulations last week to allow unvaccinated athletes to play in home games.
Irving played his first game in New York on Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets.
Irving’s status has been a topic all season because of the tenure. However, there were no such limitations in Boston or Philadelphia, making vaccination status a non-issue.
With the playoffs looming — and, with it, a potential first-round showdown with the Raptors, or beyond — that’s no longer the case.