The Knicks have made it through nine games this season without COVID-19 throwing a wrench into their plans, but the pandemic is causing problems elsewhere around the league.
The Nuggets will arrive at the Garden on Sunday having played their last two games against the 76ers — who played with eight active players Saturday because of health and safety protocols stemming from Seth Curry’s positive test — and the Mavericks, who have quarantined three players after one tested positive following Thursday’s game in Denver.
“We just gotta do our part individually,” Knicks guard Austin Rivers said Saturday. “It’s tough, though. It is everywhere. Unfortunately in our country, people don’t wear masks all the time. You have ignorance displayed every day, which is causing this to be more delayed and more serious. … It’s frustrating to see people mess around with that stuff. We just control what we control and do our part. The Knicks have done a great job of keeping us in line with that stuff.”
The fight against the pandemic hit home recently for Rivers, who said he lost an old AAU coach to COVID-19 on Friday. Rivers’ father, Doc, meanwhile, was forced to make do with a shorthanded 76ers team Saturday.
But with cases popping up around the NBA — including Celtics star Jayson Tatum, according to reports — Rivers believes the Knicks can gain an advantage if they continue to follow protocols, knowing there’s also some luck involved.
“The number one skill is availability,” Rivers said. “If we do our job and remain available, it gives us a chance to win every night. It gives us an advantage because you see a lot of teams having star players — I just saw Tatum today with Boston go down, so you get to play some of these teams missing some of their guys, if we’re fully loaded, it just gives us another advantage.”
Sunday will bring two former Knicks assistants together. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau and Nuggets coach Mike Malone were on the same staff from 2001-2004.
“I’ve known Mike since he was a young kid,” Thibodeau said. “He comes from a great basketball family. Of course his dad [Brendan Malone] is an all-time great coach. So Mike’s been around a long time, he’s done an unbelievable job in Denver. His teams have always played really well on both sides of the ball. He’s done a terrific job there. We know we’re going to have to bring our best.”