NBA teams will be allowed to reopen their facilities in the upcoming weeks, the league announced Monday in a move that’s about adjusting to states reopening businesses and not a signal that the resumption of play is on the horizon.
The league announced that it’s targeting May 8 for NBA training facilities in states with relaxed stay-at-home orders to allow players to return for individual workouts under specific restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
No more than four players will be allowed in a facility at one time, no head or assistant coaches can be present, and team employees on the court must wear gloves, the league said in a statement. Players must wear masks except when they’re working out, and organizations must appoint facility hygiene officers.
For teams in states where orders haven’t been eased and likely won’t be soon — such as California and New York — the NBA is working on solutions for players to have access to courts.
“The purpose of these changes is to allow for safe and controlled environments for players to train in states that allow them to do so,” the NBA said in a statement, “and to create a process for identifying safe training options for players located in other states.”
The NBA suspended operations March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The league mandated all team training facilities to be shut down by March 20.
As states such as Georgia relax social-distancing restrictions, there was concern among the NBA and team executives that players would head to local fitness centers for workouts and scrimmages. Opening practice facilities was an obvious solution — under a league roof, the NBA could make the rules and keep some level of control.
The initial plan was for the NBA to mirror the states removing stay-at-home orders on Friday, though team officials for the Atlanta Hawks said they weren’t interested in reopening team facilities until they were more comfortable with the state’s protocols. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban expressed similar sentiments.
Some NBA executives were unhappy with the plan.
The concern primarily centers on player health and safety, and not on competitive advantage. The general sense, according to one NBA executive not authorized to speak publicly, is that “if there is a will, there’s a way,” meaning players are finding ways to stay in shape and continue shooting workouts even if it means violating stay-at-home orders.
In a conference call this month, Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA would need to account for local rules, but ultimately hoped there could be a national set of standards for a return to play.
“We’re taking in all data. It’s not just our so-called experts we’re listening to. We view the counsel with the other leagues as an opportunity to listen and learn from colleagues, and from whatever outside resources they have available to them,” Silver said. “… But I think it’s clear in order to operate a league, other than maybe in some interim way, you need a consistent national set of standards.”
Silver said the league did not know what protocols would be necessary in order to restart practices and games. Once that is determined, it likely would take at least a few weeks for teams to have players ready for a game.
One NBA executive believed it would require about three weeks of training before games resumed while Houston’s Chris Paul, who has been president of the players’ union since 2013, said he thought it would take at least three to four weeks.