NBA, union stiffen virus protocols; more games postponed

With 5 games referred to as off this week already and more groups coping with virus-related points, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association enacted extra guidelines Tuesday within the hope of conserving the season going safely.

For “at least the next two weeks,” the league and union mentioned, gamers and staff employees must stay at their residence when of their dwelling markets and are prohibited from leaving their inns when on the street — with exceptions primarily for practices and games.

“I’m all for anything we possibly can do to ramp up the safety,” mentioned Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, whose staff had the NBA-minimum eight gamers in Philadelphia on Tuesday night time, lacking eight for COVID-related causes and one other with harm. “Just because we want to proceed with our profession doesn’t mean that there isn’t a reality of what’s going on in the world. The virus is still very much out there.”

Utah’s sport in Washington on Wednesday was postponed as a result of contact-tracing points among the many Wizards meant they wouldn’t have eight obtainable gamers for that matchup. Orlando’s sport in Boston on Wednesday can be off, the third postponement since Sunday involving the Celtics.

Boston’s most up-to-date record confirmed eight gamers as unavailable as a result of they’re adhering to the NBA’s well being and security protocols, which implies they both examined constructive or contact-tracing knowledge confirmed they could have been uncovered to somebody who’s constructive.

“I’m for whatever the NBA wants us to do,” Washington coach Scott Brooks mentioned.

All that’s permitted in dwelling markets, for now, is “to attend team-related activities at the team facility or arena, exercise outside, or perform essential activities,” the league and union mentioned. On the street, staff actions and emergencies are the one allowable causes for leaving inns.

NBPA govt director Michele Roberts mentioned “it would be irresponsible and unacceptable” to not search higher methods to maintain gamers secure.

“No one wants to see more restrictions imposed,” Roberts mentioned. “No one also wants to see the infection rate increase if there are steps we can take to mitigate the risk. Our experts have concluded that these new procedures will add to our arsenal of weapons against the virus.”

The new guidelines add to a difficult time within the NBA, particularly when coping with the psychological pressure of enjoying in a COVID-19 world. And the flurry of virus-related points in the previous couple of days have solely made issues harder.

“I feel like I’m living my life in a box,” Portland guard Damian Lillard mentioned. “I go to practice, I go back home, I don’t go anywhere else.”

When groups began testing in late November previous to the beginning of coaching camps, 48 gamers had constructive COVID-19 exams. In the final 4 weeks, the league has introduced a complete of solely seven constructive exams, a part of the rationale the NBA has not paused play.

“This is real life, COVID-19, and taking the precautions and taking the protocols seriously is the most important thing,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders mentioned.

Additional actions taken Tuesday embody a brand new rule prohibiting any pregame conferences in locker rooms from lasting more than 10 minutes; when these conferences happen everybody should put on a masks.

Players have been informed to restrict on-court interactions with fellow gamers to elbow or fist bumps, with no prolonged socializing. And when a participant is subbed out of a sport, he can sit in a “cool down chair” and not using a masks — however should put a masks on when he returns to the bench and sits in his assigned seat.

There have been no less than 36 gamers within the league coping with virus-related points or protocols when Tuesday started, primarily based on data launched by groups. That quantity went up partly due to the Wizards’ scenario; it was not clear what number of are affected there.

Most present participant points are believed to be associated to contact tracing.

The Jazz weren’t stunned by the information of their sport in Washington being referred to as off. “We were aware of that all day, waiting for a lot of the contact tracing to take place,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder mentioned Tuesday night time.

Contact tracing has gotten more high-tech in current days, with a requirement that everybody put on an digital machine that tracks proximity to at least one one other. The knowledge from these units is a part of the dedication whether or not a participant must quarantine due to doable publicity.

“I think the thing that we’re all trying to figure out is when somebody does test positive, the contact tracing, how does that work?” Chicago coach Billy Donovan mentioned.

Counting the 2 new postponements and one other on Dec. 23 between Oklahoma City and Houston, the league has seen six games moved due to virus points. Boston’s sport in Chicago on Tuesday was referred to as off due to virus considerations, as was the Dallas-New Orleans sport on Monday and the Heat-Celtics matchup in Boston on Sunday.

Dallas flew to Charlotte on Tuesday, indicating their Wednesday sport is on as scheduled. But the Mavericks have 5 gamers out — 4 of them constructive for the virus, together with three which have been isolating in Denver because the weekend, staff proprietor Mark Cuban mentioned in an interview on Dallas radio station KTCK.

But Cuban additionally believes there shall be methods to get followers into arenas once more this season.

“Not just letting in 3,000, but as in 15,000, 20,000, before the end of the season,” Cuban mentioned. “I mean, look, even if we just made it available to front-line workers and health-care workers to come in for free to fill the stands because they’ve all been vaccinated, I’m cool with that.”


AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Minneapolis, Schuyler Dixon in Dallas and Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed to this report.

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