The NBA’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19 have taken many stars and rotation players off the court in recent weeks, resulting in postponements and lineups full of unknown players. The league’s five-game Christmas Day showcase could look very different with marquee names like Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young possibly being unavailable.

Team broadcasts have also been affected by the Omicron variant spreading throughout the league. That shouldn’t be a surprise with broadcasters and crew in close contact with players and coaches, often traveling with the teams they cover.

Atlanta Hawks TV play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun missed Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers after testing positive for COVID. That put Bally Sports Southeast reporter Lauren Jbara in the play-by-play seat alongside analyst Brian Oliver (who was subbing for Dominique Wilkins, also in protocols for contract tracing.)

“I know we talk about the ‘next man up’ mentality with the team, the ‘next coach up’ mentality when there was a false positive with the coaching staff,” Jbara said during her introduction.

“But guess what? Now it’s the ‘next broadcaster up’ mentality, Brian Oliver, because Bob Rathbun unfortunately, about 45 minutes ago, tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on health and safety protocols.”

Jbara then told the audience that this was her first-ever play-by-play assignment. She found out she’d be calling the game less than a half-hour before tip-off too.

Related: Kate Scott will be the new TV voice of the Philadelphia 76ers

As the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand later noted, Jbara doing the Hawks telecast while Kate Scott was on the mic with the 76ers made for the first time that two women called play-by-play for each team in an NBA game.

Prior to joining Bally Sports Southeast as a courtside reporter for Hawks telecasts, Jbara was a studio host and reporter for Colorado Avalanche broadcasts on Altitude Sports. (She’s also currently a sideline reporter for ACC football telecasts on Bally Sports South.)

A University of Michigan grad, Jbara was previously an in-arena host for Detroit Pistons games and a sideline reporter for Oakland University basketball broadcasts.

Being a studio host likely made the transition to play-by-play a bit easier, as opposed to moving over from reporter. But anyone who’s hosted studio coverage or called play-by-play would surely say that the two roles are quite different in terms of following the action and giving the audience frequent updates. Yet there are probably some similarities as well with explaining the situation to the audience and setting up the analyst for commentary.

On Bally Sports Detroit Pistons broadcasts, reporter Johnny Kane sometimes fills in for regular play-by-play broadcaster George Blaha, who also calls Michigan State football on radio. So maybe this happens throughout the regional sports network landscape from time-to-time.

How did Jbara do, Hawks fans? Judging from Twitter, she performed well. Maybe fans cut her a break considering the situation, but she’s also a professional broadcaster who stepped up when needed.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.