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How COVID could determine the NBA playoffs

As Warriors coach Steve Kerr was driving to work last week ahead of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals series, his focus wasn’t on the Memphis Grizzlies, but rather on his cough, his congestion, and the cases of COVID-19 that had popped up at the team’s San Francisco facility.

The NBA made testing for the disease — once mandatory and daily — an effectively voluntary practice for vaccinated players and coaches this season. In February, Kerr had, like so many of us, stopped wearing a mask when he was at work, on the sidelines. No one actually likes wearing them.

But Kerr was concerned enough that he put the mask back on for Game 3 of the series on the first weekend in May.

Then, Kerr tested positive for COVID two hours before Game 4. He missed that game, as well as Games 5 and 6 — as the Warriors clinched the series — and has now recovered from the “mild” case and will be on the sidelines for Wednesday’s start to the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I just felt like ‘I better test,’” Kerr said, recalling his mindset on the drive to Chase Center. “If I pass this on to the team, I’ll never forgive myself.”

With new COVID cases rising increasing threefold since the start of April, this disease offers a new threat to not only the Warriors, but the NBA as a whole.

It could absolutely determine the league’s champion in June.

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