The NBA and NBPA are putting new, stricter COVID-19 protocols into place to try to minimize the number of positive tests and potential exposure around the league.
All of the following changes and measures will take effect immediately:
Activities Outside the Team Environment:
For at least the next two weeks, players and team staff are required to remain at their residence (when the team is in its home market) at all times except to attend team-related activities at the team facility or arena, exercise outside, or perform essential activities, or as a result of extraordinary circumstances. Away-from-work interactions are limited to those with household members, family and any personal staff working regularly in the home. When on the road, players and team staff are prohibited from leaving their hotel (other than for team activities or emergencies) or interacting with non-team guests at the hotel.
With this, NBA players and team staff are essentially entering in-market bubbles, notes Shams Charania.
For at least the next two weeks, any pre-game meeting in the locker room is limited to no more than 10 minutes in duration and all attendees must wear a facemask. All other meetings involving players and team staff must continue to occur on the court, in a league-approved space, or at the arena in a room large enough to provide for at least 6 feet of distance between individuals. Meeting attendees must continue to wear facemasks at all times.
On the Road:
For team flights, teams must create a seating plan on planes so that players whose assigned seats are closest to each other on the bench for games are also closest to each other on the team plane. All treatment sessions at a hotel, such as massages and physical therapy, must occur in a ballroom or other large open space, with at least 12 feet between individual stations. Facemasks and face shields are required for all individuals during such sessions.
Players are prohibited from arriving at the arena more than three hours before tip-off. During the pre- and post-game periods, players must limit interactions to elbow or fist bumps, avoid extended socializing and maintain 6 feet of distance as much as possible.
All players must wear facemasks on the bench at all times. Upon exiting the game, and prior to returning to the bench, players can sit in “cool down chairs,” arranged at least 12 feet from the bench with each chair 6 feet apart, where facemasks are not required. Once a player has cooled down, he must return to his assigned seat on the bench and wear a facemask until he enters the game again. Players must always wear facemasks in the locker room, during strength and conditioning activities and when traveling with anyone other than a household member. Coaches and other team staff must wear facemasks at all times during games.
Any individual who regularly visits the interior of the home of a player or team staff member for a professional purpose must undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week. For any team with a positive player case or high-risk staff member case, the NBA may require players and team staff to undergo five consecutive days of twice-per-day, lab-based testing, in addition to daily point-of-care testing.
“The league’s Health and Safety Protocols may be additionally amended during the season as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic evolves,” the NBA and NBPA announced.
While all of these new rules will be in place for at least two weeks, “that’s probably the minimum,” a source told Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.
Some, if not most of the changes figure to remain in place for the rest of the season to help make sure it goes as smooth as possible.
Despite the recent postponed games, the NBA does not have any intentions of pausing the season.