Hawks coach Nate McMillan wants season paused over massive COVID outbreak

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With players entering health and safety protocols seemingly constantly, and cases are rising at a record rate across the country, Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan thinks that the NBA needs to take a break.

“Of course,” he said, the season should pause so teams can get healthy and regroup.

“I think that way, but it’s not up to me,” he said Tuesday, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The league is trying to keep this season going. Of course, it’s really frustrating for us and a lot of other teams. But there isn’t anything we can do other than follow the direction of the league. We are trying to bring in players to replace guys who go into protocol. It’s a real challenge, and the timing really couldn’t be any worse for us to start a six-game road trip with a number of our guys in protocol.”

Though McMillan would love to see a break, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that there are no plans to pause or stop the season — something the NHL did earlier this month.

Over 170 NBA players or coaches have entered the health and safety protocols in recent weeks, which has prompted teams to scramble and sign G League players to 10 day deals just to try and fill a roster. Thunder coach Mark Daigneault was the latest coach to enter protocols on Tuesday, joining Suns coach Monty Williams, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups, Lakers coach Frank Vogel and Bulls coach Billy Donovan.

The NBA and the players association agreed to a new policy this week that allows players to return after just five days instead of 10 after testing positive. The league is also requiring all teams to host a booster event by the end of the year to try and get as many people fully vaccinated as possible. About 97% of the league is fully vaccinated.

The United States is averaging a record-high 301,000 new cases each day, according to The New York Times, which is a 153% increase over the past two weeks. There were more than 488,000 new cases on Wednesday alone, too, which also set a new record. As of Wednesday night, about 71% of Americans aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated.

The Hawks fell to the Chicago Bulls 131-117 on Wednesday night, which marked the first of a six-game road trip. They currently have 12 players in protocols.

“It’s just a sick feeling,” McMillan said, via the Journal-Constitution. “The timing is definitely bad to be losing guys when you are going on a six-game road trip. Every day you are just wondering what’s going to happen next. You walk into the office this morning knowing that you are already down players and you get the news that three of your players and a couple coaches go down.

“They have to go into protocol and we have to continue on.”

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