Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 during game in new NBA challenge

Philadelphia 76ers guard Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, prompting the team to spend the night in New York after losing to the Brooklyn Nets, ESPN reported.

Curry didn’t play in the 122-109 loss due to an ankle injury. He was tested for COVID-19 on Thursday morning and the 76ers were informed of the positive near the start of the game.

Curry spent the first quarter on the bench in street clothes and was seen talking to Joel Embiid late in the period after the center came out for a rest with 3:05 left in the stanza.

The 30-year-old Curry left the bench area at the end of the quarter after being told of the result and was isolated from his teammates.

The 76ers are slated to conduct contact tracing on Friday morning and the players will undergo another round of testing, per NBA health and safety protocols. Philadelphia’s next contest is Saturday at home against the Denver Nuggets.

Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19
Seth Curry
NBAE via Getty Images

Embiid told ESPN after the game that he will self-quarantine away from his family until he is sure he didn’t contract the virus.

Curry is averaging 17.0 points in eight games this season. He is shooting 60.3 percent from the field, including a torrid 59.5 percent (25 of 42) from 3-point range.

Curry is the son-in-law of 76ers coach Doc Rivers and the younger brother of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.


Garden would have been ‘rocking’ for this Knicks’ win

It didn’t take much imagination to summon what those final two minutes of the third quarter would have felt like, sounded like, looked like, been like. If you remember what Madison Square Garden becomes when the Knicks aren’t just playing well but the fans there believe they have a stake in them playing well …

Yeah. You know. You remember. Intellectually, you knew that the Garden was empty Wednesday night, but as the Knicks turned 73-68 down into 78-75 up, as they polished off a 10-2 run that felt like it was pulled out of the ’90s archive, you could almost hear the pleas raining down from the cheap seats, all the way to courtside.


As Kevin Knox blocked a shot, as Austin Rivers made a steal, as RJ Barrett slammed one home to punctuate it all with 8.1 seconds left in the quarter, you could summon the swarming, swirling, echoing din that would try to chase the Jazz off the court, all the way to the bus. These moments at the Garden, the best moments, you swear that you can see the momentum swing for the home team.

Austin Rivers and RJ Barrett celebrate after the Knicks' 112-100 win over the Jazz at an empty Madison Square Garden.
Austin Rivers and RJ Barrett celebrate after the Knicks’ 112-100 win over the Jazz at an empty Madison Square Garden.
NBAE via Getty Images

“It’s so unfortunate we can’t have our fans be a part of this,” Julius Randle would say later on, after the Knicks had drilled Utah, 112-100 — outscoring the Jazz by 30 points after spotting them a 52-34 lead late in the second quarter.

Randle would have given the customers something to get good and hoarse about, turning in what is becoming his routine nightly stat line: 30 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, a plus-25 rating. Later, of course, it would be Rivers, who has become a fourth-quarter phenom, who scored 14 straight points to help turn a 96-96 tie into a 110-100 lead, knocking down four straight 3s.

By then, the Garden would’ve felt like it was about to collapse on its foundation. You get that a couple of times a year when you get a team like this one, a team that captures the faithful’s attention the way this one has across these first eight games. Watching the Knicks bench go crazy — Immanuel Quickley and Barrett happily watching, and cheering, in their warm-ups — hinted at what it would’ve been like.

“I know the Garden would be rocking,” Randle said. “That’s what we all signed up for.”

What Knicks fans have signed up for — what they’ve yearned for — is a team that looks so much like this one. Every night arrives something else to enjoy. The past two games the Knicks fell into big holes — 15 at Atlanta on Monday, 18 against the Jazz on Wednesday — and both times they not only figured out how to turn a blowout into a nail-biter, they figured out how to win both games.

“The NBA is a long game,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You can make up ground quickly. No lead is safe and no deficit is impossible to overcome.”

Said Rivers: “Guys had a sense of urgency. They started talking to each other, saying, ‘Let’s hunt them down point by point.’ We knew we didn’t need a home run, let’s just play basketball, and then everyone started having fun, competing, one thing led to another and then it was a ballgame again.”

It was a ballgame again, and then it was a stick-and-move fourth quarter, the Jazz trying to keep their legs on the second half of a back-to-back (after getting smoked in Brooklyn on Tuesday night), the Knicks hoping their own legs would survive the eight-man rotation that early-season injuries have forced.

And that’s the amazing thing about this team: You could almost understand it if, this early in a season, the players leaned on enthusiastic, pleading crowds to get them through. But as much as you might want to imagine all of that as a fan, the players’ truth is this: It’s like playing in an open gym back in high school, nobody watching except each other and a few scattered folks cutting through the gym from the cafeteria to the bio lab.

You know what you’re missing.

But they know what they’re missing, too.

“I keep trying to imagine it,” said Rivers, who finished with 23 points in 32 minutes. “I can imagine what it was like when I used to play against them. The fans here have so much energy, I can’t wait. It’ll happen. Hopefully, down the line, we get people back here. This is the best place to play basketball and everyone knows it.”

He shook his head.

“Those lights coming down, the dark stands …

“There’s nothing like that.”

Yeah. You know. You remember.


Red-hot Knicks hold off Hawks to move above .500

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett carried the night and load with each playing 40-plus minutes and combining for 54 points.

But the rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley, in his third NBA game, and veteran Austin Rivers, carried the Knicks home in the fourth quarter as they squeaked out a 113-108 road win in Atlanta to end their four-game trip at 3-1.

Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks are now a winning ballclub at 4-3 — by far the hottest NBA team in New York after winning four of their last five games.

As is his knack, Quickley drew a huge three-shot foul with 2:34 left, bagging all three free throws as he finished with 16 points in 19 minutes, playing almost the entire fourth quarter during which he scored 10 points.

Rivers, in his recent role as closer, hit a huge 3-pointer with under a minute left, then drew a charge on Trae Young.

Randle scored 12 points in the first quarter and finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, falling one dish shy of a triple-double, to continue his All-Star-caliber season. The Hawks were the first team not to double-team the Knicks’ emerging star.

RJ Barrett was terrific with 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 44 minutes as the Knicks rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter.

The Knicks have little big-man depth with Obi Toppin and Omari Spellman out and got dealt a blow when Nerlens Noel was ruled out with an ankle sprain. Noel was not on the injury report.

That forced Randle into major minutes (43). With Randle dominating inside and the Knicks attacking the rim, the club dominated the paint. Twelve of their first 14 points were in the paint. The Knicks starters built an early 24-14 capped by a beautiful feed from Payton to Barrett for a fast-break dunk put the Knicks up 10.

Asked why he stuck with Quickley in the fourth, Thibodeau said:

“He can shoot. Just the way he approaches the game, attitude, approach. He has that one skill that opens everything up. Every day he’s getting better and better. When you’re as intelligent as him he picks up things quickly. We were searching and struggling and found a group and rode with it.’’

Quickly scored on a floater to start the fourth quarter, making it 88-86. He finished 4 of 6 from the field, 2 for 3 from the 3-point line and 6 of 6 from the line.

The Knicks fell behind by 15 before rallying in the final 1:30 of the third quarter. Kevin Knox hit a 3-pointer for his first bucket of the night. Quickley blew by former Duke standout Cam Reddish for a layup. And then Knox hit another 3 — a buzzer-beater from the corner after which he raised his arms in celebration as the Knicks grabbed an 88-84 lead.


Lamar Odom denies drug relapse after posting video of ‘alter ego’

Lamar Odom was just having fun.

The former NBA star said his strange Instagram video — in which he appears as “Black Jesus” — was just meant to promote his Twitch account. Instead, according to Odom, fans were convinced he was having issues with drugs again.

“Lighten up DAMN ~ I can’t have fun without being accused of being high or out my mind??” Odom captioned a response video on Instagram.

“If you know me you know I play all day, life is too short to stay so serious, Covid taught us that.”

The initial video that caused worry showed Odom “turning water into wine” while sporting a long-haired wig.

Odom has been battling ex-fiancee Sabrina Parr on Instagram, claiming last week that Parr was holding his social media accounts hostage.

Odom, 41, had battled cocaine addiction in the past and nearly died during a 2015 incident at a Nevada brothel.

“Black Jesus just my alter ego and I am just trying to bless y’all in 2K and Madden on Twitch,” Odom said in the video.


Kyrie Irving scoffs at idea of player-coach ‘disconnect’

Steve Nash has often eschewed calling timeouts, saying he wants his Brooklyn Nets to play through things themselves and problem solve on the floor.

On Sunday, Kyrie Irving took matters into his own hands during Brooklyn’s 123-122 loss to the Wizards at Barclays Center.

Brooklyn’s defense was in disarray and getting torn up on switches by Washington’s Rui Hachimura. The forward scored three Wizards baskets and assisted on the fourth in a run before Irving called a timeout with 7:35 in the third.

Asked to elaborate on the seeming disconnect between the bench and the players, Irving pushed back against the question.

“Disconnect? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped. “This is basketball. It’s pretty simple.”

Kevin Durant claimed not to have noticed the whole affair.

“I didn’t even see that,” said Durant. “But Steve knows when to call timeouts. He knows what he’s doing over there. We all trust him. He’s only going to get more comfortable as time goes on.”

Durant and Irving were doing their own on-court coaching.

Irving appeared to counsel Caris LeVert after his young teammate picked up a technical. And Durant pulled Joe Harris aside after a defensive breakdown and implored the small forward not to get caught over-helping him, something both have admitted the Nets have been guilty of.

“I had my guy bottled up, and I [saw] somebody out the side of my eye just coming over trying to, I guess, just trying to give some resistance,” said Durant. “I told guys, if I’ve got somebody inside the 3-point line and they pick their dribble up, there’s no need for you to help. And Joe understood.“And I also told him that he can guard, so you don’t have to help so much on him. He can guard it one-on-one. I think we’re all starting to understand each other even more. It’s only going to get better.”

There was a lot of coaching going on out on the court, with Nets players talking to one another. Irving saw a value in those teachable moments.

“It’s basketball. We should be able to communicate out there openly,” said Irving. “So just want to make adjustments on the fly. Just got to continue to get better at that.”

LeVert had just six points on 3 of 13 shooting. He sat down the stretch in favor of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who bounced back with 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting from deep.

Spencer Dinwiddie hasn’t had surgery yet, but he posted a picture on Instagram of himself working out. Nash commented that the versatile guard’s absence is underrated.

“He’s almost the forgotten guy in a sense when you throw him out there in the lineup, but he’s about as well-rounded a player as we have along with Kevin and Ky,” said Nash.

Nets coach Steve Nash

“He has great size. … He defends well for his position, he’s one of our best athletes, and he can score, playmake, handle the ball and brings a lot to the table. So we miss a lot. He fills a lot of gaps for our team.”

Hall of Famer Paul Westphal died Saturday at the age of 70. His last position in the NBA was as a Nets assistant in 2016.

He was diagnosed with brain cancer last August.

“The Brooklyn Nets mourn the loss of former Nets assistant coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Paul Westphal,” the Nets said in a statement. “Our thoughts and condolences are with his loved ones.”


Knicks’ RJ Barrett in awful shooting slump after sizzling start

RJ Barrett started the new season afire, nailing his first nine shots from the floor, including all three of his three-point attempts, in the Knicks’ opening loss in Indiana.

Tom Thibodeau’s team will return to that locale Saturday night, and Barrett will look to rediscover that shooting touch after his percentages have dramatically plummeted in the four-plus games thereafter.

The second-year guard hardly was the lone misfiring culprit in Thursday’s 100-83 loss to Toronto in Tampa. The Knicks finished a wretched 3-for-36 from long range against the Raptors, including an NBA record 23 straight misses without one made by the starting five.

Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Duke, has connected on just 26.3 percent (19-for-72) from the field since his sizzling start Dec. 23 against the Pacers. He also has clanked 21 consecutive attempts from beyond the three-point arc.

In fact, Barrett (0-for-8) and starting small forward Reggie Bullock (0-for-9) became the first teammates in NBA history to each go 0-for-8 or worse from three-point range in the same game.

Knicks RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett’s shooting woes continued during the Knicks’ loss to the Raptors Thursday night.
Getty Images

Barrett wasn’t made available to the media following Thursday’s game, and the Knicks (2-3) did not practice nor make anyone available on New Year’s Day ahead of Saturday’s visit to Indiana.

Thibodeau had gushed earlier in the week that Barrett “has been terrific” and “playing an all-around game” in back-to-back wins against Milwaukee and Cleveland. Despite his poor shooting numbers, the 20-year-old Barrett is averaging 15.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists through five games.

“He’s played well without shooting well. We know the shooting is coming,” Thibodeau said Wednesday. “He’s doing a lot of things for us defensively, moving well without the ball. He’s getting downhill.

“There’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s been diligent with his work. Just having a wing to do things he can do, his versatility is a big asset for the team and willingness to make plays for people.”

Thibodeau said after Thursday’s loss that he wanted to review the game film before commenting directly on Barrett’s and the team’s poor shooting game, especially since the Knicks entered leading the league in 3-point percentage (45.9%).

“I think when teams play zone you are going to get a lot of open looks, but we’ll take a look at it,” Thibodeau said. “It’s the right play. To me, it’s like if you get the right play, if you get the movement, if you force the defense to collapse, you kick it out, and if one of your shooters is open, that’s all I go by.

“So if a guy’s wide open, there’s no one within five feet, you’ve got to shoot it.”

Even with his team firing blanks, Thibodeau noted that the Knicks led by seven points in Thursday’s third quarter — and they still were within three with under nine minutes remaining in the fourth – due to their defensive commitment. The Knicks have allowed 105.2 points per game, fifth-lowest in the NBA.

“You always think you can do better. [Toronto] didn’t shoot a great percentage. You hold a team like that to 100 points, you should have a shot to win it,” Thibodeau said. “If we would have made some of our threes, we probably would have had a good chance to win it.

“Our defense is something that we have to continue to work on — containment on the ball, ball pressure. We’re not perfect. I think if we put forth the effort, we fly around, put pressure on the ball and our weak side is aware, we can cover up [our] mistakes.”


John Wall feared foot amputation before making long-awaited NBA return

John Wall played in his first NBA game in two years Thursday night after a prolonged recovery from two injuries, which the five-time All-Star said he thought at one point might not only end his basketball career but cause him to lose his foot.

“It was tough,” Wall told Stadium’s Shams Charania prior to his 22-point, six-rebound, nine-assist performance in the Rockets’ win over the Kings. “I went through three or four different infections. So it got to the point where, ‘OK, are you going to have to cut your foot off or not?’ That’s where it got real with me. The basketball aspect was, like, going to be easy for me.

“I feel like any rehab that comes in the first three or four months is the biggest key of anything, is how you attack it. So all of a sudden, I couldn’t be a heavyweight. I had to be lighter weight.”

Wall underwent surgery on his left heel in January 2019, when he was with the Wizards, to remove the bone spurs that had bothered him for years. But he developed an infection in the incision from that surgery. He then had to have more surgery after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon when he slipped and fell in his home.

The first-overall pick in 2010 was traded last month to Houston, along with a protected first-round pick, for Russell Westbrook

John Wall foot Rockets debut NBA
John Wall during his Rockets debut Thursday night.
NBAE via Getty Images

His return to the court was further delayed when he was deemed a close contact high risk of rookie Kenyon Martin Jr., who tested positive for COVID-19 a day after getting a haircut at Wall’s apartment. Wall had to miss the Rockets’ previous two-game road trip to quarantine.

“It was great, man, just to get out there and have fun,” he told reporters Thursday. “When I get between those four lines and once the ball touches my hands after the jump ball, I was fine. I was happy to be able to compete with some of the best guys in this league and [demonstrate] that I have the ability to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Although he was rather pleased with his first performance in his first game back, Wall acknowledged that there was room for improvement, specifically pointing to his five turnovers and poor 3-point shooting (2-of-8) — though teammate Christian Wood said Wall was back in “All-Star mode.”

“Having 22, nine and six is not bad for my first game in two years,” Wall said. “I can pat myself on the back for that, and I know that I’ll be even better for the next game.”


Four Knicks guards out vs. Raptors

The Knicks finally got Austin Rivers back in the lineup for his team debut, but they still had four injured guards sidelined in the Knicks’ 100-83 loss to the Toronto Raptors Thursday night in Tampa, Fla.

Frank Ntilikina (sprained right knee) and Dennis Smith Jr. (left quad) already had been ruled out for the game, but Alec Burks (sprained left ankle) and rookie Immanuel Quickley (sore left hip) also were downgraded from questionable to out shortly before tip-off.

There was a possibility that Quickley might return Thursday after missing three games since he suffered a hip pointer in his NBA debut in the season opener at Indiana on Dec. 23.

“He’s getting closer each day, and each day he’s done quite a bit more, more contact, that sort of thing but he’s not quite there,” coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. “We felt let’s wait another day or two and see. … When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”

The injuries left starters Elfrid Payton and RJ Barrett, little-used reserves Jared Harper and Theo Pinson and the debuting Rivers (groin) as the Knicks’ backcourt options.

Frank Ntilikina
Frank Ntilikina
Getty Images

Smith has been getting treatment for a contusion in his left quad and remains day-to-day. Thibodeau said the guard was “en route” to accompany the team for the remainder of the four-game road trip, which continues Saturday in Indiana, “but he’ll still be out for a while.”

Rivers scored seven points to go along with five assists in 21 minutes.

The Raptors are currently playing their home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., due to COVID-19 restrictions in Canada.

“It is different to be here. Everyone, I think they’ve made the best of a tough situation. I think it’s probably a smart thing to do,” Thibodeau said. “When you come in, the ushers, everyone, is welcoming you to Toronto, so there’s a little humor added to it, which makes it a little bit better.

“I’m sure for them it’s hard. It’s a team that gets great support, as most NBA teams do, in their hometown. So them being away from home, I’m sure they would prefer to be in Toronto. Tampa is a beautiful city and the people have been wonderful, so we’re fortunate that they were willing to take them in.”

Forwards Obi Toppin (calf) and Omari Spellman (knee) also remained out for the Knicks.


Jarrett Allen’s ‘outstanding’ play only fueling Nets starting lineup debate

Jarrett Allen may not be starting for the Nets, but he has been starring for them, rebounding as well as anybody in the entire NBA so far this season.

Despite not having starting a single game going into Friday’s matchup against the Hawks, Allen entered Thursday night leading the league in offensive rebounds (22), offensive rebound percentage and total rebound percentage (26.4).

“We definitely encouraged rebounding, that’s an Achilles heel for us thus far. But mostly on the defensive end. The offensive end, it’s just, it’s really valuable,” coach Steve Nash said. “We have such so many scoring options that when we get extra possessions it makes us, I think, even more difficult to contend with.

“But Jarrett’s been outstanding. So, really proud of his play, how he’s handled coming off the bench. He’s playing the most minutes generally I think at the center position, and he’s earned those. He’s a dynamic player in that position and he helps us in many ways.”

Jarrett Allen rips the ball away from De’Andre Hunter.
Getty Images

Allen’s 60 total rebounds were not only second in the NBA this season, but the second-most off the bench through five games for any player since starters were first tracked in 1970-71.

It of course sparks debate among fans as to why he’s coming off the bench. DeAndre Jordan — who joined the Nets as free agent along with friends Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in June 2019 — has started, but increasingly struggled. His plus-minus has gotten worse every single game since the opener, bottoming out Wednesday against Atlanta with five points, three fouls and just one rebound for a minus-8.

“That’s a good debate. It’s a small sample, one, and I’m not sure if plus-minus is the best barometer,” Nash said. “But that was a tough matchup for DJ. Those guys are good, dynamic rollers, [Clint] Capela, but even more so [John] Collins’ speed is exceptional getting out of the screen and it poses a unique problem.

“And those guys around him had a ton of confidence and freedom shooting it [Wednesday] and made a lot of shots. So it’s tricky, but it’s a good lesson for us.”

Irving — who has been vocal about gender equality — weighed in on Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to serve as an acting NBA head coach when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich got ejected Wednesday.

“It’s a genderless society that’s going on in 2020 and I respect it. There shouldn’t be any roles that are deemed for male or female. It should be open,” Irving said. “But there’s still a fight, and I’m grateful to be a part of history and Becky to make history. And there’s more history to be made for women and their empowerment in the workplace, as well as their respect across the world.”

“So I’m grateful to be part of that. I’m glad that Pop got ejected and put Becky in the driver’s seat and got to see her do her thing, because she’s well-respected amongst her peers and across the whole entire culture, sports and entertainment-wise.”

Irving paid off the tuition for nine Lincoln University students as part of his foundation’s 11 days of giving, according to The Athletic.


LaMelo Ball finally breaks out after early-season struggles

LaMelo Ball appears to have finally found his footing in the NBA.

After going scoreless in his NBA debut against the Cavaliers and combining for just 19 points in the following two games, Ball broke out with a 22-point performance in the Hornets’ 118-99 win over the Mavericks on Wednesday. He also chipped in five assists and eight rebounds in just over 29 minutes to help Charlotte improve to 2-2.

There were hardly any doubts about the 2020 third-overall pick’s talent and potential. The question was how long it would take for him to learn how to navigate the NBA and understand the defensive side of the game.

“He’s making smart decisions and I’m proud of him. He’s growing up right before our eyes,” Miles Bridges said of Ball. “We just want to focus on the defensive end with him. His offensive game is there.”

Ball went 7-for-10 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, and showed flashes of the dynamic playmaking ability that made him a top-three pick. It was a welcome sight after he shot just 33 percent from the field through the first three games of the season.