NBA’s Christmas show goes on amid Covid surge

The NBA’s Christmas Day slate seems to lack some of its usual lustre as the league grapples with the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The Golden State Warriors, led by NBA three-point king Stephen Curry, travel to Phoenix to take on the Suns in a battle of the league’s top two teams.

It looks to be the highlight of the five-game programme that will be lacking some of it’s expected star power with Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and likely Dallas’ Luka Doncic among the dozens of NBA regulars sidelined by Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

There was a glimmer of good news on Friday, when ESPN reported Milwaukee’s two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo had cleared protocols.

But last season’s Finals MVP was reportedly still to test his conditioning before deciding if he’d play against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

“Well this is the unknown,” Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said of dealing not only with injury absences but with the sudden unavailability of players who test positive and must isolate from their teammates.

“I say every year has its own challenges and this is another year where you can literally have one guy one night and the next night you won’t. You really don’t know, it’s up in the air.

“It’s literally a crapshoot every single time you take a test at this point on who is negative and who is positive. You’ve just got to see who is available and go from there.”

The Lakers host the Eastern Conference-leading Nets – who have had three games postponed as Covid-related absences left them with too few players to field a team.

Nets coach Steve Nash said he didn’t expect Durant to be cleared to return before Saturday, although Brooklyn have been able to welcome back James Harden.

“It’s a game that both teams want to win, no matter what circumstances,” James said. “Is it going to be one of the premier games that I’m accustomed to playing on Christmas Day? No. So many guys out.

“You know this whole protocol thing has gotten a lot worse for a lot of the teams in the league right now.” (AFP)