Coronavirus sports roundup: Suns energized; Coyotes await games with no fans

Covid-19 patients in New Dehli, India, rest on beds at an indoor sports stadium, which has temporarily been converted into an emergency coronavirus care center. Sports facilities around the world have gone to the aid of cities that need testing and space assistance. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Coach Monty Williams and the Phoenix Suns continue to prepare for the NBA restart at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The team has held several intrasquad practices but has not yet scrimmaged or played simulated games against other teams. Until that happens, Williams said the team’s readiness for the restart is unknown.

“I mean, it’s hard to say,” he said. “I think all of us, all of the coaches will say that guys look good, you know, all of that stuff. But it’s hard to say where you are until you start playing games against competition outside of your gym.”

Uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic led the NBA to suspend its season on March 11. The NBA Board of Governors approved on June 4 a competitive format for the league’s return. Twenty-two teams will participate with the Suns’ first game scheduled for July 31 against the Washington Wizards.

Williams did say he’s been encouraged by his team’s competitiveness, though he stressed that’s a part of the team’s identity.

“That’s who we are, so I’m not going to pat us on the back for competing like that,” he said.

The quick ramp-up to the eight-game regular season-ending schedule has tired some Suns players, but Williams has seen breakthroughs as well.

“The energy in the gym has been really good,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of days where the soreness has, you know, kind of set in a bit, and guys got the juice going and brought our level up to the Suns basketball level, and that’s been good.”

The Suns coach also discussed how the practice-heavy training camp has been an unusual experience for his players, who have been “beating each other up every day.”

He harkened back to his days as a player on the New York Knicks for comparison.

“This is like the old NBA. I mean, we would have two weeks of training camp before you played in a preseason game. And that’s how it was,” Williams said. “So, it reminds me so much of being in New York with Pat Riley and, you know, having a four-hour practice and doing that every day for a week and a half to two weeks, I guess, before you even got a chance to play. So I can adapt to either one.”

Coyotes prepping for unique playoffs

With less than two weeks until the Coyotes take the ice against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, veterans and rookies alike are preparing for a unique playoff system. The NHL is welcoming 24 teams to compete, with 16 of those playing in a best-of-five series and round robin style to gain seeding.

“It’s just going to be keeping everybody calm and present in the moment,” Coyotes defender Jason Demers said. “I think it’s a weird situation like I said but it’s something that’s going to be talked about for years to come and hopefully no one’s going to ever have to go through this again and it’s not going to be this format ever again.”

The biggest things the Coyotes are focusing on include getting back into game shape and being mentally focused by the start of games.

“Just getting the timing and the feeling back again. … It’s the same thing for everyone,” Antti Raanta said. “We just have to get dialed in quickly and hopefully be ready when the puck drops.”

The Coyotes along with the rest of the NHL are preparing for another significant change: empty arenas with no fans. The Coyotes are hopeful they can use this silence to their gain for calling out plays and having clearer communication both on and off the ice.

“I think it’s going to be a huge advantage,” Demers said. “It’s going to be the difference in how fast we can play and get on their team and how making sure we know where our teammates are at all times. It’s been an adjustment for sure but it’s something to focus on and make sure that we’re all doing that.”

The Coyotes have their first puck drop since the shutdown on July 30, when they take on the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

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JC fall, winter sports delayed

Following the lead of the National Junior College Athletic Association, the Maricopa County Community College District announced Thursday that it is pushing fall and winter sports to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No in-person athletic activity is allowed until January.

The decision was made after recent community forums were held to address public concerns. The district’s 10 college presidents had recommended to suspend sports for the entire 2020-21 school year.

“The forums provided a space for our students, coaching staff, employees and community members to voice their concerns and share suggestions on the state of the 2020-2021 Intercollegiate Athletics Season,” Interim Chancellor Dr. Steven Gonzalesin said in an email sent to the schools.

Men’s and women’s basketball are scheduled to begin Jan. 11, with soccer programs set to get underway in mid-March.

MLB’s positive test rate slows

Just six of 10,548 samples collected from MLB personnel in the past week for coronavirus testing revealed positive results, the league announced Friday. The week included a five-day period in which no new positives were reported.

Thirteen teams have had an individual test positive during the league’s monitored testing. The Diamondbacks are one of the teams who have been impacted, with Silvino Bracho, Seth Beer, Junior Guerra, and Kole Calhoun among those who have tested positive.

The Arizona Diamondbacks leave on Sunday for two exhibition games in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Sports with the assist

As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow, more and more sports facilities are being used to help with testing as well as hospital beds.

The latest is an indoor sports stadium in New Dehli, India. The country is the world’s third worst- hit country and just hit a highest single-day surge of 34,956 cases.

The Arizona Cardinals helped with Arizona’s COVID-19 testing blitz in May by hosting drive-up testing sites at State Farm Stadium.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christian Babcock expects to graduate in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a related area in sustainability. Babcock, who has interned with The Arizona Republic, is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports this spring.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jackson Lautaret is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media production.