I hate to talk about COVID, as we try to make our blogs as some sort of an "escape" from the continuous news reel, but the NBA is in quite the pickle right now. More than 80 players across the league are currently in protocol, and the numbers continue to grow.
With that being said, the NBA and the Players Union came together for a new rule that will help fill out roster spots, to avoid league shutdown. Teams can sign one replacement player for each player who test positive for COVID. The new rules, which will be in effect until Jan. 19, stipulate that replacement players' salaries will not count toward the salary cap or luxury tax. For an NBA game to be played, both teams are required to have eight players available. The league has postponed eight games this season, and several teams have played severely shorthanded, per Shams Charania.
Team's took full advantage of this almost immediately, and have signed some names that fans are quite familiar of. The full list can be found here, but the big ones that caught my eye are below.
After a brief stint the the Nuggets G League team (Grand Rapids Gold), Stephenson has made his way back on an NBA Roster. The 2010 40th overall pick has over 500 NBA games under his belt, owning a career average of 8.6PPG, 4.2REB, and 2.9AST in a nine year span. Most notably known as a Pace (2010-14, 16-17), Stephenson has played for the Hornets (2014-15), Clippers (2015-16), Grizzlies (2015-16), Pelicans (2016-17), Timberwolves (2016-17), and Lakers (2018-19).
The 15 year vet, who hasn't played since 2019, makes his way onto the Celtics after last playing for the Wizards. He has a career line of 9.2PPG, with 2.4 REB and 1.1 AST, playing primarily at the shooting guard and small forward position.
The last time we saw Iso-Joe in the NBA, it was the 2018 western conference finals as a member of the Houston Rockets. He now is reunited with the team that drafted him in 2001. The 7x All-Star has averaged 16 points in over 1,200 career games for a multitude of teams, including the Nets, Hawks, Suns, Heat, Rocket, and Jazz. In recent days, he's been one of the top players in the BIG3, leading the league in scoring, assists, and steals. He has won 2 MVP titles and a BIG3 Championship in his two seasons of play.
The former first rounder by the Kings has bounced around the league a little since his debut in 2017, but made his way to a championship contender last season as a role player for the Bucks. The UNC Champion is steady shooter, and offers nice depth off the bench for the Celtics.
An NBA journeyman on the Knicks, Pelicans, Pistons, and Suns, Galloway is a career 40% shooter in his six year career. He was the first undrafted player in Knicks history to make an NBA All-Rookie team.
Another 15 year vet joins the COVID additions. Ilyasova found most of his success in the Spanish League, winning the champion in 2009 with FC Barcelona. He's bounced around the league, but has solid shooting, with a 10ppg average throughout his career.
The Georgetown and Texas Tech stud had a brief stint with the Lakers after going undrafted. He made waves in the summer league, but his debut with South Bay consisted of a game-high 24 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers
Alongside Joe Johnson, this is one of the most exciting names to see return back in the NBA. The 2x All-Star hasn't had a fair shot since his breakout years as a Celtic, but it is great to see him back in the mix. He was an absolute weapon in 2016, averaging close to 30 points per game for Boston. He's bounced in and out of the league since being traded for Kyrie Irving, but on December 13, 2021, Thomas signed with the Grand Rapids G League team. In his debut, he dropped 42 points, 8 assists, and six rebounds in 42 minutes. Hopefully there is more to come for IT.
New York Knicks
A consistent role player for the Knicks for three seasons, Dotson returns back to the team that drafted him. In 2017, Dotson became the eleventh player in history to play in the G League and NBA in the same day.
A solid playoff role player for both the Nets and Heat, Johnson has vast experience over the past few seasons, averaging almost 25 minutes per game in his career.
A former first rounder bounced around the league, from the Kings to the 76ers, Nets, Trail Blazers, and Cavaliers. "Sauce Castillo" has over 300 NBA games across his career, averaging close to 7 points per game on almost 40% shooting.
The former LSU and Celtics guard was named the G League Rookie of the Year in 2020.
Photo: Rich Obrey/NBAE via Getty Images