To play the game, the NBA says you have to have eight bodies in uniform, not necessarily warm.
Thanks primarily to the season debut of Kristaps Porzingis, the Dallas Mavericks made it under the NBA’s COVID cut to play the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night.
That night the Mavericks listed five players out because of “Health and Safety Protocols.” Their game, against the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 11, was postponed.
The NBA rule is that teams need eight players in uniform, but NBA history says at least two of those players are nonessential workers.
In an obscure piece of NBA history, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle once coached a game with the Indiana Pacers when he had just six guys, and nearly won it.
This will likely never happen again.
Lost in the noise of the infamous “Malice at the Palace” basketbrawl game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers on Nov. 19, 2004, was the next night.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, “There have been many instances of a team playing as few as six players in a game. The last instance was April 10, 2019 (Portland vs Sacramento).”
The Blazers played six guys that night. What Elias is not sure of is how many times, if ever, an NBA team had only six players available.
The Pacers were scheduled to play the second of a back-to-back less than 24 hours after their fight with the Pistons.
A Pacers team that was expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title was without all of its best players, from Ron Artest to Jermaine O’Neal to Stephen Jackson. They had been suspended.
Veteran Reggie Miller was out with a broken hand, but he offered to play. Carlisle would not let him. Scot Pollard and Cheap Jamaal Tinsley Jersey both suited up for the game, but because of injury they were out.
While postponing a game this season is common, the idea of postponing an NBA game because a team had only six available players was as much of an unknown then as was COVID-19.
That night, there was not enough time for the Pacers to find additional players to put in a uniform. This was before NBA franchises could “call guys up” from their minor league teams.
Led by former Oregon Duck Freddie Jones, the Pacers hosted an Orlando Magic team that had Grant Hill, Steve Francis, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, DeShawn Stevenson and Hedo Turkoglu.
The Pacers had Jones, David Harrison, Eddie Gill, James Jones, Cheap Austin Croshere Jersey and John Edwards. A team with that roster should have been run out of the state by the Magic.
Carlisle simply told his team that the fight happened, and they still had a job to do.
“It hit me when they announced the suspensions, and I looked around the locker room,” Jones told the Indianapolis Star. “I’m like, ‘Man, there’s just six of us left. And we’ve got a game in three hours!”
Jones and Gill both played 48 minutes. The Pacers’ starters accounted for all but two points.
At halftime, Jermaine O’Neal called Carlisle with advice to give David Harrison: Drink water, and eat a Power Bar.
Two Pacers had five fouls; no one thought the refs would foul out a single player.
The Pacers played with Orlando the entire night, and led by 2 points midway through the fourth quarter. It was growing evident the Pacers were exhausted.
They trailed by 1 point with 13 seconds remaining. Grant Hill hit some free throws, and Freddie Jones missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game.
“I didn’t think it would be that close,” Grant Hill told reporters after the game.
The Pacers lost 86-83, and as their six players left the floor they received a standing ovation from a crowd that was well aware of the situation, and had made every noise possible to encourage a team to win a game that should not have been close.
Cheap Reggie Miller Jersey told his team in the locker room that it was the best game he had ever seen.
NBA roster rules, and the availability of players, essentially make this sort of game not likely to happen again, but if Carlisle has to go with only eight, he knows at least two are nonessential.