The virus outbreak didn’t just send NBA teams looking for help from the G League. The NBA umpire corps had to do the same.
A trio of G-League officials – Tyler Mirkovich, Clare Aubry and Pat O’Connell – received games on Friday that made NBA debuts for all three. It was the first time that the NBA had to call G-League officials to working games this season.
Mirkovich was assigned to Phoenix in Boston, Aubry was assigned to Atlanta in Cleveland, and O’Connell was assigned to New York, Oklahoma City.
“I think the whole league is concerned,” said Monty McCutchen, the former official who now oversees all referee affairs as the NBA manager. “We want our league to be healthy and we want the players to feel safe and healthy. We want coaches and staff to feel that health and safety are a priority, and so do referees. “
None of the three G League referees called up on Friday have played a single NBA preseason game. However, with about a third of the league’s umpires unable to work right now, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic and some injuries, the NBA had no choice but to seek help.
“We have some people with health and safety protocols out and about. It’s no secret, ”said McCutchen. “And we’re putting in some people from the G League that we have a lot of trust in, who can give us the temporary coverage that we need.”
The NBA started on Friday with about 120 players at various stages of the logs. Also on the side: eight head coaches – the Los Angeles Clippers’ newest coach, Tyronn Lue, who was entered on the logs on Friday in Toronto – and dozens of other staff, including assistant coaches, sports coaches, media representatives and more.
The league has a vaccination rate of 97 percent for players and 100 percent for coaches, and at least two-thirds of the league have received a booster vaccination. The NBA has postponed 11 games in the past few weeks, frequently changing their protocols – the latest moves aimed at getting players who test positive on the ground faster than before.
About 100 G League players have been signed into NBA deals in the past few weeks as the teams have had to fill the roster due to all the virus-related problems. Players and coaches across the league have applauded the players who got their chances.
“It’s hard to come here. It’s hard, ”said Washington Guard Bradley Beal. “I think a lot of people got it wrong somehow. They think a lot of the things we do are easy, they think getting into the league is easy. It ain’t man. And then you have so many guys in the G who deserve to be up here. These guys actually deserve places, and a lot of them just don’t get that opportunity. Lots of guys are lucky enough to have opportunities and many of them take advantage of them. “
It is unclear whether the G League’s incumbent aid will continue after Friday. 10 games were scheduled for Friday, which meant 30 referees were required for those games – with the exception of the other four who were selected to work at the NBA’s replay center.
The daily routine will be a little brighter over the next few days: there are six games on Saturday and seven on Sunday. It won’t be back to a 10-game list until Monday, and it is possible that some of the protocols will work again by then.
“I think it’s a short-term need,” said McCutchen. “Like everyone else, we live in real time and make real-time decisions that serve the league. The job of the umpires is to serve the league, and as a management team, our job is to serve the league at the highest level that we can at any given moment in the circumstances. “
McCutchen said he had no doubt the G League calling arbitrators were ready. For the past four years, the NBA has started training all umpires – the NBA, G League, WNBA, and now the Basketball Africa League – the same way and to the same standards.
“I have no doubts that they will perform well if we have to rely on them,” said McCutchen.
Aubry is now the 14th female umpire in charge of a regular season NBA game. The league has six full-time women referees this season and four others designated as non-staff.
Aubry is also a men’s basketball official in the Atlantic Coast Conference and made history as the first woman to direct a Georgia Tech basketball game when the Yellow Jackets played against Lamar in mid-November.
“I thought she did a great job,” said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner after the game. “She is a great civil servant. She officiates in the G League and will be in the NBA. We are fortunate that the ACC can have senior officials, and she is one of them. She is a high-ranking civil servant. “
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