Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans aren’t the only players the Washington Wizards are missing in their first days at the NBA’s bubble in Florida. Guards Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews as well as center Thomas Bryant did not travel with the team to ESPN’S World Wide Sports Complex near Orlando on Tuesday.
Bryant and Payton tested positive for the novel coronavirus and Mathews didn’t join the team for personal reasons, multiple people close to the players confirmed. It is unclear whether any of the three players will join the Wizards in Florida at a later date.
Asked in a virtual news conference for an update on the players absent from practice, Coach Scott Brooks declined, citing the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Bryant and Payton are far from the only NBA players to test positive for the virus — on July 2, the league announced that 25 of 351 players have tested positive since June 23. Wizards players and team staff members were tested daily in the days leading up to their departure for Orlando. Players who made the trip were tested twice in the first 36 hours after their arrival in the bubble and were permitted to leave their hotel rooms only after both tests came back negative.
Several NBA teams closed their practice facilities in recent weeks after members of their parties traveling to Florida tested positive.
With Beal (shoulder injury), Bertans (chose to sit out) and Bryant staying home, Washington could be without three starters when it opens its eight-game regular season-ending stretch July 31 against Phoenix, making its path to the playoffs even more arduous. The Wizards (24-40) are 5½ games behind the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic and need to get within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot.
Bryant averaged a team-high 6.8 rebounds and 12.1 points before the season was interrupted in mid-March. Beal and Bertans averaged a combined 45 points.
In Mathews’s limited minutes this season, he averaged 5.4 points and 1.3 rebounds. Payton averaged 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds.
For the young core of players who made it to Florida — 32-year-old guard Ish Smith and 33-year-old center Ian Mahinmi now account for the Wizards’ veteran presence — Thursday was the first day of five-on-five, full contact basketball in nearly four months.
Brooks said even without the missing players, the team was able to accomplish everything it wanted in its first practice back Thursday.
“We want to compete, we want to challenge each other, and we want to have some fun doing it. We’re going to have — minimum, we’re going to be together for six weeks,” Brooks said. “That’s a lot of reps, a lot of practice time and a lot of opportunities [for drills], a lot of outings that we can have off the court that we can really get to know one another and get the team better.
“The guys came in in great shape. They’ve been in D.C. for quite some time with our coaches and our staff and our performance team to put themselves in a position where they can step on a court for the first time and play five-on-five and look like a pretty good team. I’m impressed. I’m proud of the staff. I’m proud of the players to do that because when you have a young team, that takes a lot of discipline.”
In addition to the Wizards’ five active players staying home, point guard John Wall did not travel to the bubble and is expected to continue to rehab a ruptured Achilles’ tendon while splitting his time between Washington and Miami.