On Tuesday, the NBA took a necessary step to implement stricter health and safety guidelines for teams around the league. The decision to hold a Board of Governors meeting on the topic came in the wake of several additional postponements due to positive COVID-19 cases over the past few days (including the Bulls-Celtics game tonight).
Teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics have all suffered mass absences due to complications with the virus. We also saw the Washington Wizards close their training facility after two players were forced to enter NBA protocol. It’s important to specify that these issues are not all rising on an individual basis either. As The Athletic’s Fred Katz recently demonstrated, it’s not hard to connect the spread of the virus throughout the league, and that fact only further stresses the need for more stronger practices.
In the last eight days, Durant entered quarantine a day after playing the Wizards; the 76ers had a positive test the day after playing them; the Celtics had a positive test the day after playing them; and the Heat lost half their roster the day after playing them. https://t.co/EZg8RaZNnS
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 12, 2021
The NBA and NBPA released a joint statement above the improvements they plan to make this afternoon, and rather than re-write all the changes, you can give them a look in the press release shared below. The gist, however, is that teams will effectively enter an in-market bubble. Players will be allowed to leave their place of residency only for the team’s training facility and arena. Then, when on the road, there will be no option to leave the hotel or interact with outside guests.
If we’re being honest, I’m not quite sure why these rules were not already in place. Allowing players and team personnel to leave the hotel or invite guests over in the first place seems flat-out irresponsible. I know the league wanted to give everyone the liberty to do as they please, especially after confining so many in the Orlando bubble, but there is simply no way for this to work under that gameplan. I mean, did Commissioner Adam Silver truly not learn anything from the MLB or NFL?
(Michael: And I’ll add that MLB’s season was largely played at a time when the virus was actually MORE under control than it is today).
For at least next 2 weeks, NBA players and team staff are essentially entering in-market bubbles:
– Home: Remain in residence at all times (except for exercise outside, essential activities, extraordinary circumstance)
– Road: Stay in hotel (unless team activity or emergency)
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 12, 2021
Here’s official release on enhanced NBA/NBPA measures: pic.twitter.com/l1yEsR9Gox
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 12, 2021
In addition to tightening off the court rules, the league has adjusted many game-day practices. Players must now limit pre and post-game interactions, and meetings inside the locker room must be fully-masked and no longer than 10 minutes. If a meeting can not stay within that time frame, the NBA says it must be held in a more open space where players can stand at least 12 feet apart. The league will also be most strict about enforcing mask-wearing on the bench.
Again, I’m just annoyed that none of this was deemed necessary earlier. The NBA has typically been good about avoiding the same mistakes other league’s make, but they dropped the ball on this one. Hopefully, these new restrictions and practices can help slow down the spread of the virus and limit the number of postponements we see in the future. If not, the league is going to be in one heck of a terrible situation.