Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford has tested positive for coronavirus, though he and the team are waiting on re-tests before determining if he will have to miss time.
Clifford does not expect to be cleared in time for Sunday’s home game against the Indiana Pacers, though no final determination has been made yet. He may be able to coach in Monday’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers, provided he returns two negative tests by then.
Clifford originally tested positive Thursday night. He returned two negative tests Friday, giving hope that the first positive was a false result, then learned Saturday afternoon that a test he took that morning came back positive.
“I feel fine,” Clifford said Saturday evening. “I have no temperature. I feel 100%.”
If Clifford cannot coach Sunday or in subsequent games, Magic assistant Tyrone Corbin will take his place.
Clifford has received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, getting the second one on Thursday. He is not yet considered “fully vaccinated” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, since two weeks have not passed since his final dose. He said he has experienced no side effects from getting the vaccine.
He has dealt with some health issues in the past, including missing 21 games during the 2017-18 season when he coached in Charlotte after problems caused by sleep deprivation presented themselves, and he left a game at Minnesota in March 2020 after experiencing dizziness caused by dehydration.
“I feel comfortable that I’m not really in danger,” Clifford said. “That with the fact that my temperature, my oxidation numbers, how I feel, I have no side effects right now, I’m very comfortable with that.”
Clifford’s situation is just the latest in a series of challenges for the Magic this season, following a trade-deadline franchise restart with the trades of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, along with Markelle Fultz being lost early in the season to a knee injury and Jonathan Isaac missing the entire year with a knee injury he sustained in the NBA’s restart bubble last August.
Orlando was the NBA’s last team to remain unbeaten at the beginning of the season, getting off to a 4-0 start. The Magic were 6-2 after an early January sweep of a two-game set against Cleveland — then lost 15 of their next 18 games, and it’s only gotten worse from there.
Their longest winning streak in the last two months has been a mere two games. They’ve lost 10 of their last 11 and entered Saturday with the fourth-worst record in the NBA at 18-41, just a half-game ahead of Detroit for the worst mark in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s been a tough year,” Clifford said. “But you have to evaluate things, you have to self-reflect, and this is not easy for guys either. The easy thing to do for me as a head coach is say, ‘Oh, woe is me.’ But our guys are trying hard. … I want them to get the most out of this last 13 games as they can.”