Two new Covid-positive players as NBA All-Star break ends

Giannis Antetokounmpo of Team LeBron runs out before the 70th NBA All Star Game as part of 2021 NBA All Star Weekend on March 7, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP)

The NBA had two players test positive for Covid-19 from 465 players tested since March 3, the league said Wednesday as its mid-season All-Star Game break concluded.

Anyone returning a positive test or identified as being in close contact to an infected person must quarantine until they are cleared under NBA health and safety protocols.

The contract tracing issue was what kept Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid of Cameroon and Ben Simmons of Australia from playing in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game at Atlanta.

According to multiple reports, both Simmons and Embiid were in contact with a Philadelphia barber who tested positive for Covid-19.

They were the only players who had an issue with a positive test or contact tracing over the weekend.

Both Embiid and Simmons will miss the 76ers' return from the All-Star break on Thursday at Chicago.

Should they continue to test negative for the virus, Embiid would return Friday when the 76ers visit Washington and Simmons would be back Sunday when the Sixers play host to San Antonio.

At 24-12, the 76ers have the best record in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of the Brooklyn Nets (24-13).

Embiid ranks second in the NBA with 30.2 points a game and fifth in the league in rebounds with 11.6 a contest.

Simmons is averaging 16.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals a game.

The All-Star break ended a day earlier than originally planned with two games Wednesday that were rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic: Washington at Memphis and San Antonio at Dallas.