As has so often been a theme this season, the Pacers will once again be down by at least one starter for Wednesday’s match-up against the Atlanta Hawks, as the team announced Tuesday that Justin Holiday will be out due to entering health and safety protocols.
After being replaced in the starting lineup by Kelan Martin for one game against the Detroit Pistons, Holiday rejoined the first unit in place of rookie Chris Duarte upon returning home from the team’s 0-3 road trip, which featured losses to the Knicks, Pistons, and Hornets. On the year, the 3-and-D wing has shot the ball worse in 15 games as a starter (33 percent) than in eight off the bench (40.7 percent), but the value he adds as an intuitive off-ball mover is key not only to meshing with Domantas Sabonis as a hub but also to playing more free with less reliance on play-calls.
As the only other movement shooter on the roster, Duarte seems like the obvious choice to fill-in for however long Justin is out, but that also appeared to be the case on Monday, when T.J. McConnell instead got the nod, replacing Myles Turner, who remains questionable with a non-Covid illness. If Turner is able to rally, it’s possible that bringing Duarte along as sixth-man, with greater availability of on-ball reps, may continue to be the team’s preference.
According to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, Holiday is expected to be out for at least 10 days and miss the next four games. While no specifics were offered as to Holiday’s current condition or what triggered the action, league rules stipulate that players who test positive for COVID-19 have to wait 10 days from a positive test or the onset of symptoms or pass consecutive negative PCR tests 24 hours apart to return to play. Furthermore, any player who has experienced symptoms must also pass cardiac testing prior to a return.
Before the season, Kevin Pritchard said the team’s training camp roster of 20 players was 90-95 percent vaccinated. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA has completed a study with infectious disease specialists and testing manufacturers on the preseason antibody test results of 2,300 players and staff, citing further evidence of a need for booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines for league personnel to raise antibody levels and protect against potential breakthrough cases, of which there have reportedly been 34 instances.
Of course, beyond isolating the virus and getting Justin back on the court, the main concern is that he is feeling well and, if not, makes a full recovery without any long-term, lingering effects.