As one of the teams most impacted by COVID-19 last season, the San Antonio Spurs made sure not to take any chances this year. The goal is to "avoid what happened in Charlotte last year," said Popovich on the team's Media Day.
In February 2021, four Spurs tested positive for COVID-19, forcing them to quarantine in North Carolina and have several games postponed. The team was never the same after that, with key guys missing multiple games and the roster shuffle being too much of a wrench in plans.
This season, the fact that the Spurs are fully vaccinated should mostly prevent a similar situation from happening again. As the CDC states, all vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19 as seen in clinical trial settings.
Still, even vaccinated people aren't immune and could be susceptible to a breakthrough case, but CDC data also shows those frequently come with less severe symptoms and a much lower chance of death. Of course, not everyone believes the CDC as a believable source.
Although 96% of NBA players have reportedly been vaccinated, there are still some high-profile guys opting out. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and Washington's Bradley Beal both still remain unvaccinated. Mavericks guard Trey Burke also has stated he'll be "politely declining."
The biggest ramifications will undoubtedly affect Irving, who plays in a market that requires vaccination to play in home games. ESPN's Bobby Marks broke it down:
The Ripple effects on the San Antonio Spurs
Fortunately, the ramifications of strict vaccination rules and state mandates won't impact the Spurs negatively. Being one of a few teams confirmed as vaccinated, they'll be able to play with relatively few restrictions compared to the non-vaccinated.
Meanwhile, players who don't show proof of vaccination could even face such penalties as prison time or hefty fines if breaching quarantine in Toronto.
The vaccination status of Kyrie Irving wouldn't directly impact the Spurs until they visit Brooklyn on January 9th, 2022. Time will tell if he'll eventually get vaccinated before that time. If not, I find it hard to believe the Nets will be ok with having one of their stars for only half of their games and no practices. Something will likely change by then, whether it be a trade or other measure.
Since Washington and Dallas don't have vaccination mandates, the only way the Spurs may be affected by the statuses of Beal and Burke is on the court. Although their chances are lower of contracting COVID-19, they're higher around unvaccinated people. San Antonio will be playing those teams on these dates:
Oct. 28 @ Mavericks
Nov. 3 vs. Mavericks
Nov. 12 vs. Mavericks
Nov. 29 vs. Wizards
Jan. 21 vs. Nets (Irving can play away games)
Feb. 25 @ Wizards
Apr. 10 @ Dallas (final game of season)
Beyond possible physical consequences of COVID-19, the Spurs will have an advantage in that they can avoid the drama that will undoubtedly circle some other teams. It can't be great for team chemistry when some are divided on such an important issue.
With more than 75% of adults in San Antonio fully vaccinated, hopefully, the impact of COVID-19 will be very minimal in 2022. The Spurs already have enough on their plate.