NBA, NBPA Agree To Temporarily Adjust Roster Rules

The NBA and the players’ union reached an agreement on Sunday night to adjust roster rules to address the COVID-19 outbreaks occurring across the league, according to Tim Bontemps and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The new rules will go into effect immediately and will remain in place until at least January 19, per ESPN. At that point, the NBA will give teams guidance on how to proceed.

The new rules are as follows:

  1. A team will be permitted to sign a replacement player for each player on its roster who tests for positive for COVID-19. For instance, a team that has five players test positive would be allowed to sign up to five replacement players.
    • As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), the hardship exception generally requires a team to be missing at least four players before a replacement player can be signed, so the new rule is essentially splitting the hardship rule into two parts — it will remain the same for injured players, but will be available immediately (without the four-player minimum) for COVID-related absences.
  2. A team will be required to sign at least one replacement player if it has two players test positive for COVID-19, at least two replacements if it has three players test positive, and at least three replacements if it has four or more players test positive.
  3. When a team is required to sign a replacement player, the player must be available for the team’s next game.
  4. A player signed as a replacement won’t count toward team salary for cap or tax purposes.
    • This is a significant win for teams like the Nets, who are so far into the tax that they were on the hook for an extra $500K+ for every replacement signing they were making.
  5. A player on a two-way contract will no longer be limited to 50 games on his team’s active roster.
    • A two-way player who was signed in the preseason and exceeds 50 games will earn a salary of $751,682 (up from $462,629), according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).
    • While the rest of the rules on this list could be reversed later in the season, it’s safe to assume this will cover the rest of 2021/22.

The NBA has been forced to postpone seven games within the last week, including Monday’s Raptors/Magic game and Tuesday’s Nets/Wizards contest.

[RELATED: 2021/22 NBA Health And Safety Protocols Tracker]

The hope is that these new rules will help the league avoid postponements going forward, since teams will have the opportunity to act faster to replace players who test positive for COVID-19 and will essentially be forced to sign replacements if multiple players test positive.

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