The coronavirus continues to spread throughout the globe, causing the same havoc in the sports world that it does in nearly every other area of life.
The NFL has been forced to postpone games and rearrange its schedule. The Broncos will have to play tomorrow with no active quarterbacks, while the 49ers need to find a temporary home after Santa Clara County banned all contact sports for the next three weeks. College football and basketball also had to scramble after outbreaks.
These aren’t ideal conditions for a new NBA season, but the owners and players understood the risks when they agreed to a December 22 start date. Training camps open Tuesday, with the first exhibition games just 13 days away. Unlike a few months ago, the league won’t have the advantages of a closed campus to minimize COVID-19 dangers. Players will be out among the public, they will travel from city to city and some arenas are making plans to have fans in attendance, although on a limited basis.
To prepare for the challenges ahead, the league distributed a 134-page “Health and Safety Protocol Guide” to all of its teams. It sets regulations that will hopefully limit any disruptions to the upcoming season.
Among the highlights:
- Players who test positive for the virus must quarantine for at least 10 days after the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or they can submit two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart. Players who are cleared must work out alone for two days before rejoining their teammates. A hotline will be set up to report safety and protocol violations, just as it was in Orlando.
- The start of training camp will be limited to individual workouts with a maximum of four players and four staff members at a time. All participants need three negative PCR tests before being cleared and must start quarantining today if they plan to begin Tuesday. Full team practices won’t start until Friday.
- All teams must employ an infectious disease specialist, infection control specialist, rapid testing coordinator, testing officer, testing manager and contact tracing officer, two contact tracers and team protocol enforcement officer. Requirements also include two face mask enforcement officers, a player liaison, facility hygiene officer, arena health and hygiene manager, health education and awareness officer and travel safety officer. No more than 45 people will be permitted in a traveling party.
- No criteria have been set for what would result in the season being suspended. Like the NFL and Major League Baseball, the NBA will make that determination based on the way events unfold.
We want to get your opinion. Under the circumstances, do you believe the NBA will be able to complete its 72-game schedule and its entire 20-team playoffs? Or will the league eventually have to switch to a “bubble” environment to save the season? Please leave your answers in the comments section.