ORLANDO — For the first time in league history, a player is guaranteed to miss an official NBA game for quarantine.
Perhaps it was inevitable here at the Disney campus, where 22 teams involving 300-plus players are camped together, their freedom to move about severely restricted. Some may leave Orlando for family emergencies or other reasons, and under that umbrella, Lou Williams of the Clippers was excused Thursday when he flew home to Atlanta.
However, after attending a viewing for the death of a close family friend, Williams admitted to NBA security that he went to Magic City, a local strip club, later that night. The league was initially suspicious when Jack Harlow, a rapper, posted a picture of him and Williams — wearing an NBA-issued facemask — at the club on social media Thursday before deleting it.
When that went viral, Williams went to social media to clarify: “Ask any of my teammates what’s my favorite restaurant in Atlanta is. Ain’t nobody partying. Chill out lol. #Maskon #inandout.”
Regardless, his detour will cost him 10 days in quarantine instead of the four he would’ve received had he limited his visit to the wake. That means Williams will miss the Clippers’ first two seeding games, including the opener Thursday against the Lakers; his quarantine period began Saturday.
It was a breach of good-faith that rankled some in the Clippers organization. Coach Doc Rivers said: “You know, obviously those (pictures) got out, and that’s something that we obviously didn’t enjoy seeing or like.”
The Clippers have yet to put a complete team on the Disney courts for practice because of quarantine or pre-Disney positive tests. Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet were no-shows at the start while Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley were excused to leave the campus in Orlando to tend to family matters in the past week.
The Clippers have dealt with this level of incompletion for much of the season. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have missed chunks of the schedule for injury recovery and rest, while Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson arrived just before the season was suspended. Joakim Noah has yet to play a game.
Along with Harrell, Williams is once again a prime contender for the league’s Sixth Man Award. What troubles the Clippers about this episode is that Williams, at age 33, is one of the team’s veterans and leaders.
It promises to be an interesting stretch for the league and its players during a confinement that will last two or three months for the very best teams. One player violated the spirit of the campus, and the games haven’t even begun yet.