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NBA-NBPA agreement permits Nets to sign multiple replacement players. How many will they sign?

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

Late Sunday, with the number of players in health and safety protocols rising and the NBA desperately trying to avoid a shutdown, the league and players union agreed to a dramatic increase in the number of replacement players teams can sign.

For early reports it appears that the Nets, with the largest number of players with positive or inconclusive tests, could sign up to 10 replacements through mid-January and must sign at least three replacements, which they’ve already done with hardship additions of Langston Galloway, Shaq Harrison and James Ennis III. The Nets are also reportedly going to add Wenyen Gabriel, per Shams Charania.

The NBA postponed the Nets two upcoming games vs. the Nuggets and Wizards as Brooklyn struggled to find the eight players required to play an NBA game. Saturday night, the Nets and Magic had a combined 17 players available and 24 players out, either because of health and safety protocols or injury.

Here from Tim Bontemps of ESPN are the basics of the agreement from the NBA and NBPA...

Under the agreement, a team will be allowed to sign a replacement player for each positive COVID-19 case that crops up across its roster. So, if a team has five positive cases of COVID-19, for example, it could sign five replacement players.

Meanwhile, teams will have to sign at least one replacement player if they have two positive COVID-19 cases; at least two if they have three positive COVID-19 cases; and at least three if they have four or more positive COVID-19 cases.

There are, according to ESPN and The Athletic other elements of the agreement that would affect rosters...

  • Replacement players must be made available quickly, with teams required to add players by the start of their first game after being allowed to sign a replacement player.
  • Replacement players won’t count toward a team’s yearly salary and won’t add to its potential luxury tax payment. That carries a significant for the Nets, who would have been charged $504,000 in luxury taxes for each signing, per Bobby Marks of ESPN
  • The agreement scraps the limit on the number of games a two-way player can be active an NBA roster. There had been a 50-game limit, for two-ways like Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr, Now, that limit no longer exists, with players getting paid an amended rate if they wind up being active for more than 50 games this season.

The changes are effective immediately.

It is doubtful that the Nets will sign the maximum permitted under the agreement. Most of the 10 players now in protocols could be near the end of the protocols by the time of the Nets next game, Thursday vs. the Trailblazers in Portland. It is also possible that players could “test out” by then, that is return two negative tests 24 hours apart. (The Nets are under no obligation to announce which players will be available for the Blazers game until Wednesday afternoon.)

As for the Christmas Day game vs. the Lakers, most of the players could be cleared by then, the biggest exception being Kevin Durant. It is possible that KD could also “test out” by then. Of course, with all 10 players in quarantine and unable to practice, there would likely be a ramp up to regain conditioning. Steve Nash has said that his players are “predominantly asymptomatic.”

Kyrie Irving’s status is also up in the air. The Nets have ruled that he can play road games going forward but he is also unvaccinated and returned a positive test. Different rules apply to the two to three percent of the NBA’s 500 some players who are in his situation. He cannot, for example, dine with his teammates and must stay in his hotel room, barred from bars, restaurants, etc. However, there doesn’t appear to be anything in the NBA-NBPA agreement that would add new limitations on the unvaccinated.

Also, all NBA players will have new testing protocols starting the day after Christmas, as David Aldridge writes...

[T]he NBA and the union are maintaining their current testing protocols, which require players who test positive, regardless of their vaccination status, to sit out at least a week. Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 6, all players will be tested on game days, except those who’ve received their booster shots 14 days or longer before then, or who have recently recovered from COVID.

Aldridge adds that between 60 and 65 percent of all NBA players have received their booster shot, which is significantly higher than the general population. Only about 16 percent of the U.S. has received boosters. The Nets have declined to say how many of their players are “boosted.”

All of this, of course, is subject to change as the COVID pandemic continues. It’s possible that New York or other cities will bolster their protocols ... or that the NBA will permit those who test positive but are asymptomatic to play. The NFL is considering that.

The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov reported Friday that the NBA has thought about that, “but it is not ready yet to implement that.” For now, the league is hoping replacement players will help avoid cancellations.