Mere days after the NBA set about reopening its practice facilities and beginning the process of returning to basketball, safety concerns have altered the league’s plans. The NBA had initially planned to reopen its practice facilities in areas with relaxed social distancing guidelines, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. However, the league announced Monday that it will push that date back to at least May 8, if not later. Additionally, the league set the following guidelines for workouts at its facilities.
- No more than four players would be permitted at a facility at any one time.
- No head or assistant coaches could participate.
- Group activity remains prohibited, including practices or scrimmages.
- Players remain prohibited from using non-team facilities such as public health clubs, fitness centers or gyms.
Additionally, players in team facilities must wear facemasks at all times except during physical activity, and team staffers must remain at least 12 feet away from them, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The initial decision to reopen practice facilities was based on Georgia’s plan to slowly reopen its economy, as players considered traveling there to facilitate workouts in ways the NBA considered unsafe. But the Atlanta Hawks, Georgia’s only NBA team, had decided not to open their facility on May 1, a Hawks source confirmed with CBS Sports.
That May 8 date applies only to areas with relaxed stay-at-home guidelines. The original May 1 plan sought to find safe facilities in areas that had not relaxed their guidelines for the sake of competitive balance. A number of high-level players currently lack access to proper equipment to train or even shoot, so if a return to basketball is ever going to come, allowing players the ability to work out properly is critical. According to Charania, though, NBA players will not be allowed to workout in facilities other than those of their NBA team. Teams have also been asked to name a Facility Hygiene Officer from among its current staff, according to Charania.
For now, the NBA has informed its teams that “it is not possible or appropriate in the current public health context to regularly test all players and staff for COVID-19,” according to Charania, and any sort of widespread return to basketball would have to include regularly testing. Players must also receive a resting ECG and troponin test prior to engaging in physical activity, according to Charania.
The most recently reported plan to bring basketball back involved a 25-day preparation period in which players would work out individually for 11 days before coming together as teams for a 14-day training camp. Some players have expressed skepticism at the viability of such a truncated timeline, and now, with the opening facilities delayed, any hopes of initiating that plan have been dashed for the time being.
No NBA games have been played since March 11. Six weeks without basketball are now in the books, and quite a bit more are surely coming. Nothing is set in stone yet, but today’s news is proof of just how far the NBA is from playing real games again.