When asked whether their teams have been fully vaccinated in the past 24 hours, both the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers declined to comment on ESPN, raising the possibility that both teams may be missing players in road games of a first-round playoff series. . against the Toronto Raptors.
On Wednesday, the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Celtics and 76ers will start one loss from each other at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, meaning they can finish in any order between now and the regular season end on April 10. †
So any of them can get the opportunity to travel to Toronto for a first-round playoff series against the Raptors. As of January 15, players must be fully vaccinated to enter Canada.
The Heat and Bucks confirmed to ESPN that their teams are fully vaccinated, so they shouldn’t have any problems in Toronto.
The Celtics played their first game in Toronto since the vaccination requirement went into effect on Monday, losing in extra time.
After beating the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Sunday, Boston ruled out four players from Monday’s game in Toronto, the second night of back-to-back: Robert Williams, who injured his left knee meniscus on Sunday; Al Horford, who missed both Sunday and Monday’s games for personal reasons; Jayson Tatum, who was listed by the Celtics as having right patellar tendinopathy; and Jaylen Brown, who was listed with right knee pain.
Sources told ESPN that Williams has been vaccinated. Tatum said on Celtics media day that he had been vaccinated, but added that no one should be judged for choosing otherwise.
“I mean, it’s your decision,” Tatum said. “I fully understand the concerns of those who haven’t been vaccinated and don’t want to, and I understand the people like me who did. It’s your own personal health and your reason. No one should be judged in any way, what so it’s their decision.”
Brown said at the time that the vaccine was a personal choice.
“I have my own thoughts on it, but I respect the decisions of my teammates and things like that,” said Brown. “I know everyone has their own opinion about it, but I think it’s a personal choice.”
Brown and Horford both entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols in October, and Horford did so again in December.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has not played in Toronto since the rule change went into effect. The 76ers, who first played the Raptors in Toronto on December 28, will play them again on April 7 to conclude a three-game road trip.
The Celtics (47-29) enter the game on Wednesday, sitting third in the Eastern Conference, half a game behind Bucks in second place (47-28). The 76ers are in fourth place 46-29, half a game back from the Celtics. The Raptors (43-32), sixth, are half a game behind the fifth-placed Chicago Bulls (44-32). The Cleveland Cavaliers are a game behind the Raptors in seventh place.
The playoffs begin on April 16 and 17, with first-round games 3 and 4 — scheduled to take place in Toronto — likely three weeks from Wednesday.
To be considered fully vaccinated in Canada, one must go two weeks past a single injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks past the second injection of the two-dose vaccines. That would mean unvaccinated players have about a week to get the single-dose vaccine, ensuring they are fully vaccinated in time to play in every game of a first-round playoff series.
The most prominent example of a player missing games because he is not vaccinated is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was unable to play games in New York, nor at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, before the city last week changed vaccination regulations 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 was a topic all season due to mandate. However, there are no such restrictions in Boston or Philadelphia, so vaccination status is not an issue.
With the playoffs approaching — and with it a potential first-round confrontation with the Raptors, or afterward — that’s no longer the case.