A few months ago, the NBA pulled off the impossible by resuming the regular season and holding the playoffs to completion, in a bubble in Orlando at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. With COVID-19 still out of control (and perhaps worse than ever), the NBA decided to forge ahead and start the 2020-21 season in December, albeit with advanced health and safety protocols to hopefully keep players, coaches, and team staffers on the safe side.
It appears that things are getting out of hand, as multiple games have been postponed when teams dip below the minimum number of active players available. Now the NBA is responding, and NBA Twitter’s finest have details (Tweet storm incoming):
Also, sources say: More enforcement of mask-wearing, including coaches during games and players on bench. https://t.co/HgcEghtIYQ— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
Among protocol changes now agreed upon: NBA players can no longer interact with non-team guests at road hotels, sources tell ESPN. Players were allowed to have guests in rooms, but that is no longer the case.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
On road, players and staff can’t leave hotel -- except for team activities or emergencies, sources tell ESPN. No more list of approved restaurants. https://t.co/fU7QnElnBq— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
For minimum of next two weeks, pre-game meetings in locker rooms are limited to 10 minutes -- with masks on, sources tell ESPN. All other meetings with players and team staff must be on the court, or a larger space that allows for 6-feet of social distancing.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
Any person who regularly visits the inside the home of a team staff member or player for professional purposes must undergo Covid testing twice per week, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
Sources: League's mandating increased mask wearing for players in games, except for "cool down chairs" arranged at least 12 feet from bench and 6 feet apart. Players can go there immediately after leaving court during game, but must return to regular seat on bench wearing a mask.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
Some of my immediate reactions to the news:
- What are we even doing here? I mean, really. The rules that the league already had were enforced inconsistently, and when you have (reportedly) James Harden and (allegedly) Kyrie Irving blatantly flaunting not just the league’s guidelines, but a general sense of personal responsibility during a global pandemic, it tends to undermine whatever official efforts are being taken.
- Some of these new measures are pretty draconian, but in order to keep the season going, they’re understandable. My question is about how the league can reasonably expect to enforce these rules consistently; players and staff are not bound by the border of a bubble, where security was fairly straightforward. Are teammates expected to tattle on one another? Is a coach going to put a rotation player in the position of being unavailable for any mistakes or indiscretions? How is the league going to actually monitor behavior?
- Meetings can only be 10 minutes long? Fine. No hugging or high fives? That’s all well and good, but what referee is going to issue a technical foul for these things during a game? Is the league going to levy a fine for some dap? Meanwhile, 13 grown adults will all be exerting themselves in close proximity on a 50’ x 94’ hardwood court, and generally physical activity involves breathing.
As for the Milwaukee Bucks, they were scheduled to practice today, until they abruptly...weren’t.
This is the message that was sent to reporters by @BucksPR:— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 12, 2021
“The Bucks are no longer practicing today, so there will be no media availability.”
Bucks were scheduled to practice in Orlando this afternoon. https://t.co/FTjqbMMoUO
This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but when you consider that the Bucks just played the Orlando Magic...who recently played the Dallas Mavericks...who have had a mini-outbreak of positive tests... Milwaukee is scheduled to fly tonight for a matchup against the Detroit Pistons tomorrow, and we will monitor their status closely.
If the worst does come to pass and the team was exposed to COVID, either as a group or individually, things will be quite dicey for some time. Of each member of the Bucks, only Pat Connaughton has tested positive before (he reported no symptoms), meaning that everybody else may be encountering it for the first time. There’s no way to know, of course, unless it is reported, and generally the Bucks have been taking things seriously from the jump. Bobby Portis addressed it just yesterday, even:
“We think it’s vital for us to take each protocol seriously. Obviously this virus is real. It’s killing people. It’s doing things to harm people...For all guys to really lock in and take it seriously, I think that’s big.” - #Bucks Bobby Portis— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) January 11, 2021
In the meantime, do your part, regardless of anything that impacts basketball. We’re all in this together.