Coronavirus

NBA Sends Teams COVID-19 Safety Guide Ahead Of Training Camp

As the NBA prepares for the start of training camp, the league sent all teams a 134-page “Health and Safety Protocol Guide” as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.

The 2020/21 season will not take place inside a bubble like the resumption of the 2019/20 campaign in which a campus was established in Disney World Resort in Florida. Therefore, as teams play at their home arenas and travel for other games, the league is instituting protocols with the hopeful expectation of limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Here are some of the known outlines in the guide:

  • Per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link), if a player tests positive for COVID-19, there are two ways for him to be cleared for a return: At least 10 days passing since the initial positive test or symptom onset or two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart. Bontemps adds that once a player is cleared, he must spend two days working out solo with nobody else present. The player also may not use the locker room or change clothes and must wear a mask and get a cardiac screening.
  • Bontemps further states that players who test positive cannot exercise for at least 10 days and then monitored during individual workouts for two days. Therefore, even an asymptomatic player would miss at least 12 days.
  • Bontemps also notes that there are no criteria listed for how many positive tests or any other metric that would require a shutdown of play. As has been the case with the NFL and MLB, it would be a fluid situation.
  • Per the New York Times’ Marc Stein (Twitter link), with training camps to open Tuesday, individual workouts will be capped at four players and four team staff members at a time. Everyone participating must register three negative PCR tests.
  • Anyone participating in training camp must quarantine from at least Nov. 27 – Dec. 2, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link). Testing will begin today, Andrews adds in a separate tweet.
  • The NBA will establish a hotline to report safety and protocol violations, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. A hotline was also set up inside the campus in Orlando.
  • As shown in a graphic tweeted by Charania, the protocols will include keeping six feet or more of distance and face masks being required at all times outside of eating/drinking, practicing or playing on the court, or while enclosed in an office with nobody else around. Additionally, daily testing will be required. Finally, virtual educations and awareness sessions are shown as a requirement.
  • USA Today’s Mark Medina tweets that for the upcoming season, every NBA team will have 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. He adds that teams will also have 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.
  • Teams will be allowed to pay housing for players in order to isolate those who test positive, according to Bontemps. Normally, they are prohibited to pay for housing since it’s considered a way to circumvent the salary cap.
  • Travel parties will be limited of 45 people, including up to 17 players, Bontemps adds.

And-Ones: 2021 Draft, NBAGL, New Coaches, Training Camp Rosters

With the 2020 NBA draft in the rear view, several draft experts have begun previewing what promises to be a loaded 2021 draft class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN supplies his top 60 best prospects, noting that the race for pole position among them remains fairly open. In his own top 60 list, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic observes that the draft is heavy in wings, always a position of need in the league. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report comments in his top 30 ranking that NBA scouts believe several prospects in 2021 sport All-Star potential.

Oklahoma State point guard Cade Cunningham, G League Ignite shooting guard Jalen Green and Kentucky shooting guard Brandon Boston Jr. comprise the top three selections of all three draft prognosticators, though the ordering of the rest of their lists is fairly different.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Though the fate of the NBA G League’s 2020/21 season has not yet officially been confirmed, a spokesperson for the league informs Jordan Schultz of ESPN (via Twitter) that they are “committed to playing a 2020/21 season.”
  • Several of the NBA’s new coaching hires have immediately faced unexpected challenges even before the 2020/21 NBA season kicks off, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. While Stephen Silas grapples with his two Rockets superstars striving for trades out of town, Stan Van Gundy has seen two Pelicans starters get replaced. Meanwhile, new Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and new Sixers coach Doc Rivers will need to integrate significant personnel changes on their rosters.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets that he has been told that some NBA clubs do not intend to field full training camp rosters this season due to potential coronavirus risks.

Jazz To Allow Fans For Home Games

The Jazz announced a plan to have a limited number of fans in Vivint Arena when the new season starts next month.

There will be a reduced seating capacity of 1,500 people in the lower bowl of the building, along with limited seating at the suite level. All seating will be socially distanced, and safety measures have been adopted throughout the arena in conjunction with the Utah Department of Health. No fans will be permitted at preseason games.

“The Jazz believe this is a responsible way to start the season from a public health and safety standpoint. Our intent is to increase the number of fans as the season unfolds in compliance with state guidelines,” said team president Jim Olson. “We want to reassure our guests that we are taking the utmost precautions to have a safe and enjoyable experience as they return. We are optimistic for the future and continue to closely monitor the public health situation with State of Utah, Salt Lake County, and Salt Lake City officials as well as the NBA.”

The team is partnering with Alsco to provide products that limit the spread of COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer dispensers, masks, gloves and hospital-grade cleaning solutions. Other safety measures will be adopted, such as mandatory face coverings, mobile entry and screening procedures at all entrances, plexiglass barriers and signs to remind fans of the need for social distancing.

Deadline Set For Players Opting Out Over COVID-19 Concerns

Players who wish to opt out for the upcoming season due to coronavirus concerns must notify the league by December 1, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association reached that agreement on Saturday. Players who elect not to play will be prohibited from signing a contract for which the 2020/21 season is covered, Charania adds.

A number of players opted out of the restart in Orlando due to the pandemic. Some did so for medical issues, family concerns or worries that an injury could damage their future contract offers.

It’s unknown which players might choose not to play next season outside of a “bubble” environment, but COVID-19 positives have skyrocketed across the U.S. this fall.

Warriors’ Plan To Host Fans At 50% Capacity Denied

The Warriorsproposal to open Chase Center at 50% capacity for the upcoming season has been rejected by San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, according to Trisha Thadani and Ron Kroichick of The San Francisco Chronicle.

However, the department displayed a willingness to work with the team to have some fans at home games. A letter sent by Health Officer Tomás Aragón states that the Warriors can accommodate 25% of the arena’s capacity, about 4,500 people, if San Francisco returns to California’s “yellow tier” of COVID-19 case rates.

Golden State’s plan would have been the first of its kind in the country and would have included coronavirus testing for all fans who entered the arena. However, it was met with skepticism as California undergoes its fastest rise in virus cases since the start of the pandemic.

“I cannot approve a plan for live audiences at indoor sporting events at this time,” Aragón wrote in his letter to the team. “Indoor sports with spectators are not currently allowed under the State of California’s COVID-19 restrictions. Moreover, and more importantly, San Francisco is experiencing a rapid and significant surge in COVID-19 cases.”

The Warriors were planning to use PCR testing, rather than antigen testing, explained George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at UCSF who is advising the team. Golden State was considering sending test kits to season-ticket holders, allowing them to take a sample at home and drop it off at the arena. Rapid-results tests would also have been available outside the Chase Center.

“In the present circumstances, bringing thousands of individuals (and households) together — many of whom would travel from and return to other counties — creates too much risk of widespread transmission in transit and while visiting San Francisco,” Aragón added in the letter. “These risks remain high even with pre-event testing in place given the possibility of false negatives or individuals contracting the virus in the 48 hour-period after they are tested.”

In an email to the Chronicle, Warriors officials stated that they will continue to work with health officials “as we collectively adapt to evolving conditions.”

Players Required To Return To Home Markets By November 30

NBA players will be required to return to their home markets no later than November 30 in order to begin undergoing coronavirus testing, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

According to Charania, players will be permitted to start conducting individual workouts at their team’s facility once they’ve returned three negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for COVID-19. Those individual workouts will take place between December 1-5, per Charania. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports adds (via Twitter) that there will be a four-player, four-staffer max during those sessions.

Once players have repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 and are cleared for individual workouts, the plan is for teams to begin group practices between December 4-6, says Charania.

Preseason games will tip off as early as December 11, so teams will have no more than about a week of group activities before embarking on their preseason schedules.

And-Ones: Fan Attendance, 2022 Draft, March Madness, Oladipo

For the time being, the NBA is expecting between about five and 10 teams to have fans in their arenas (at partial capacity) to start the 2020/21 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The league has expressed a hope that teams will be able to have some amount of fans attend games this season despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and has sent teams a list of health and safety protocols that will apply to each home arena.

However, clubs’ decisions will be dictated in large part by local government officials. In areas where large-scale gatherings aren’t permitted, it seems safe to assume that teams will open the season playing in front of empty arenas.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world as we gear up for a wild week:

  • There’s growing pessimism around the NBA that the age limit for draft-eligible players will be eliminated in time for the 2022 draft, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). There’s still an expectation that the one-and-done rule – which prevents players from entering the draft right out of high school – will be adjusted at some point, but the target date for that rule change continues to be pushed back.
  • The NCAA announced this week that it plans to have its March Madness tournament for 2021 take place in a single location, likely in Indianapolis. The event had originally been scheduled for 13 separate sites, but the NCAA has decided a single site makes more sense for safety reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Pacers guard Victor Oladipo has joined the ownership group assuming control of the New Zealand Breakers of Australia’s National Basketball League, according to Michael Marot of The Associated Press. “I was always interested in being part of team ownership, having input with a team and helping a team be successful on the business side of things,” Oladipo said. “To work with a team from this perspective, I’m sure I’ll have newfound respect for the guys who have been in that position.”

And-Ones: Cousins, Cap Projections, Two-Way Players, Hard Cap

DeMarcus Cousins is still recovering from the torn ACL in his left knee and may not be ready to play when the 2020/21 season begins in December, Austin Kent of SLAM reports. Cousins missed all of last season after suffering the injury during a summer workout. Cousins’ agent Jeff Schwartz told Kent that his client is focused on returning at full strength. Cousins, who is an unrestricted free agent, received offers prior to the restart but chose to continue his rehab.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • The Knicks are in the best position in terms of cap space next offseason, Danny Leroux of The Athletic notes. Depending upon what they do this offseason, New York might have enough room for two max players. The Spurs, Hornets, Hawks and Heat could also be in good position to sign a max player. Leroux breaks down every team’s cap situation and what kind of spending power they might have in 2021.
  • There’s a good chance that two-way players will be able to remain with their NBA teams for more than 45 days during the upcoming season, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. With a condensed offseason as well as coronavirus concerns, team executives are seeking more roster flexibility, Stein adds.
  • With a flat luxury-tax line and hard cap, several teams will be forced into hard decisions in the coming weeks, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes. The hard cap of $138.9MM could force the Lakers to decide between trying to re-sign Rajon Rondo and spending their $9.3MM mid-level exception on another free agent, Marks notes. The hard cap figure could also force the Bucks to waive Ersan Ilyasova, who has a non-guaranteed $7MM contract, Marks adds.

Teams Frustrated By Lack Of Info From NBA On Restart

It wasn’t long ago that NBA teams and players were expecting the 2020/21 season to begin sometime in the new year, perhaps even as late as March. However, after the league changed course last month and proposed a pre-Christmas restart, those teams are now preparing for free agency to begin in a week and for the regular season to tip off in less than six weeks.

With things moving so quickly, teams feel frustrated by the lack of information and clarity they’ve received from the NBA about how everything will work, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

The league still has to finalize several short-term logistical details for the offseason, like when player and team option decisions are due or when trade exceptions will expire. Teams also have a number of questions about the health, safety, and travel protocols for the regular season, and are feeling pressure to figure out their plans for allowing fans into arenas.

“We know it’s hard, and they’re working on a lot of details,” one team president told ESPN. “They are listening to a lot of feedback from all of us. But at times we feel like we’re in the dark and that can get frustrating.”

“Nobody knows the rules,” a separate executive said, “and (the league) is making it up as it goes along.”

As Bontemps points out, when the NBA planned its summer restart to complete the 2019/20 season, it took several months for the league to work out all its safety protocols for the bubble. With no plans to create another bubble for ’20/21, the league and its teams must figure out how they’ll keep players, coaches, and other employees safe as clubs fly all over the country and fans are potentially allowed back into arenas. The timeline to establish all those new protocols is far more compressed than it was earlier this year.

“Everything is happening last minute, in a short period of time,” an Eastern Conference executive told ESPN. “There’s not much time to think through things.”

Warriors Aim To Use Rapid Testing To Open Arena At 50% Capacity

The Warriors are hoping to receive approval from local and state officials – and from the NBA – to reopen Chase Center at 50% capacity for the 2020/21 season, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

As Shelburne explains, the Warriors have been working since March on a plan – internally called “Operation DubNation” – which involves testing fans for COVID-19 using rapid PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that return results within 15 minutes and are believed to be about 99% accurate.

The NBA used PCR tests during its restart this summer, but had to wait overnight for the results of those tests. The rapid PCR tests have only emerged in recent months, with three companies receiving FDA approval and ramping up their production to make them more widely available, per Shelburne. The rapid tests are significantly more expensive, but the Warriors are prepared to dedicate $30MM to testing fans, employees, and players this season, according to ESPN.

[RELATED: NBA Sends Teams Memo Outlining Protocols For Hosting Fans]

The Warriors’ proposed plan would call for fans to wear masks and engage in social distancing. The team would also use a “state-of-the-art” air filtration system that’s capable of purging and replacing the building’s air supply up to four times in an hour, says Shelburne.

“I not only want to get this done and show the world how we can do it now, I’m willing to spend the money to do it,” Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said. “This is a serious, serious problem. It cannot go on for multiple years … because if this were to go on for several years, the NBA is no more.

“You cannot sustain this league with no fans. You can do it for a year. We’ll all get by for a year. But suppose we’re in this situation next year. Now we’re talking some serious, serious financial damage to a lot of people.”

Even if the Warriors are willing to spend the money necessary to conduct rapid coronavirus testing for fans, the most significant roadblock will be getting approval from government officials. As Shelburne notes, California hasn’t approved fans for sporting events in any capacity during the pandemic, and San Francisco recently reinstituted several protocols to curb the spread of the virus. Lacob is hoping to receive approval once state and local officials hear the details of the Warriors’ plan and the science behind it.

“Let us prove the concept. Let us use our money, our resources, our seven-eight months of work, our expertise to prove the concept,” Lacob said. “That’s what I’m trying to get the state, the city and the government to entertain.

“… By springtime, the rapid PCR tests will be manufactured in amounts nearing 100,000 per day by some of these companies. But I’m trying to show the world, trying to show the sports world in particular, and California, a way to do this. A safe way to have people come to an event and be totally safe walking in that building. The numbers bear it out.”