Proposed new hardship exception may force Knicks to add player

Alder Almo
obi toppin, knicks
Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The New York Knicks are down to nine healthy bodies in the rotation after Immanuel Quickley tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose (sore ankle) is still questionable to play in Saturday’s game in Boston.

The Knicks have yet to add additional players via the hardship exception. But they may be forced to if the NBA Board of Governors’ new proposed plan gets approved.

The NBA Board of Governors convened Friday and they proposed a new plan that would curb the postponement of games, according to an ESPN report. Two Chicago Bulls’ games have already been postponed in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 surge around the league.

Under the new proposed plan, teams would be required to add a 10-day player via the hardship exception after a second, third and fourth COVID-19 case.

In the proposed plan, after the first case of COVID, a team would be permitted to add a 10-day player, league sources said, but after a second, third and fourth case, teams would be required to add a 10-day player. Teams would be limited to three replacement players, but the new plan would, overall, require teams to maintain enough depth so that the league wouldn’t be forced to cancel or postpone games because some teams didn’t have the league-required eight healthy players.

Under the plan, the additional replacement players also wouldn’t count against that respective team’s salary cap or luxury tax, league sources said.

Previously, the hardship exemption was solely under the discretion of the teams. Some teams have already availed. But some, like the Knicks, have yet to use the exception rule. The hardship exemption under the CBA rules allows teams to exceed the 15-man roster limit in times of need (when multiple players are out because of injury or illness).

The league and the National Basketball Players Association still have to agree to the new proposed plan before it takes effect.

If the new plan gets approval, the Knicks would have to add players even if Rose and the first few Knicks under protocols return to the lineup.

Obi Toppin, their first player to test positive, could clear health and safety protocols two days from now. Under the current health and safety protocols guideline, players who test positive should be sidelined for at least 10 days or record two negative COVID-19 tests in a 24-hour period before they can resume basketball activities.

Toppin entered the health and safety protocols last Dec. 10 after their game in Toronto. The infection quickly spread around the team. RJ Barrett, rookie Quentin Grimes, Kevin Knox are the other three Knicks players in the health and safety protocols. At the same time, MSG analyst Clyde Frazier and sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow also tested positive.

The NBA and NBPA have also agreed to stricter measures amid the spike of COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the league issued a memorandum that requires players and Tier 1 personnel to wear masks at all times with only two exceptions: during on-court basketball activities for players and head coaches during games.

The league will also ramp up testing during the holidays. From Dec. 26 to Jan. 8, players and staff will be tested on game days except for those who received their booster shot 14-plus days earlier or recently recovered from the virus.

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