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NBA health protocols: 25 most interesting takeaways

How to clean a rack of basketballs? The NBA has a formula and protocol for that.
(Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)

The NBA issued nearly 150 pages of documents to teams and players on Tuesday detailing the plans and rules to restart the season at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Here are 25 the most interesting details from the exhaustive documents:

Do the right things

Social justice concerns have moved to the forefront for several players following the death of George Floyd, and some have even considered sitting out the restart, believing that participating would serve as a distraction from the larger calls for reform. The NBA acknowledged those concerns at the start of its communication with teams.

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“A central goal of our season restart will be to utilize the NBA’s platform to bring attention and sustained action to issues of social injustice, including combating systemic racism, expanding educational and economic opportunities across the Black community, enacting meaningful police and criminal justice reform and promoting greater civic engagement,” the NBA wrote. It added that discussions with the players union about how best to “drive action and create meaningful and generational change” will happen.

Green light to protest

Before teams leave for Orlando in early July, players and staff are asked to self-quarantine at home as much as possible. But one exception to the rule is timely: “These rules do not prohibit players and essential staff from engaging in protests; teams should invite such individuals who participate in protests to consult with a team physician regarding best practices to avoid contracting COVID-19 while doing so.”

Who goes there?

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Teams were informed they can bring 35 people to Orlando, with up to 17 of those spots going to players. Teams were told that they must bring an athletic trainer, a strength and conditioning coach, an equipment manager, a team security official and a senior basketball executive. From there, teams will try to find the best combination of coaching, video and support staff.

The guys behind the guys

Teams will be allowed to include “private player personnel” — the personal trainers, massage therapists and security guards that are key parts of superstars’ entourages. As teams try to keep people as comfortable as possible, this could be really important — but for every personal trainer who goes, someone else from the team’s travel list cannot.

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Resorting to the standings

There were initial concerns about the quality of hotel rooms available to players at Disney World. The league responded to that by splitting up the hotel assignments by win-loss records, with the top four seeds in the East and West staying together at the Gran Destino tower, the next four seeds at the Grand Floridian and the bottom six teams at the Yacht Club.

Quarantine with Mickey

Expect a stay-cation upon arrival at the Disney World campus. Teams must quarantine in their rooms until they pass two coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart. It’s estimated players and staffers will be in their rooms for the first 36-48 hours.

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Rules for Disney staff

Not everyone must stay inside the bubble. Certain Disney employees are not required to reside on the resort campus and will not undergo coronavirus testing. They will be screened for temperature checks and symptoms.

What happens when someone tests positive?

If someone tests positive in Orlando, that person will live in isolated housing if hospitalization isn’t necessary. After a false positive is ruled out, that person must stay in isolation until there are no symptoms present and the patient passes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s resolution strategy, which is currently two consecutive negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests more than 24 hours apart. Medical clearance from an infectious disease doctor is also required. The league will also begin a contact-tracing program to try to determine if any close contacts are also positive for the coronavirus. The document states that the league will not shut down if people test positive.

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Players can put a ring on it

Players will have the option to wear a “smart ring” that the league says could help with the early detection of the coronavirus. How? It will track temperature, respiratory and heart rate, and other measures.

Don’t stand so close to them

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All staff members will be required to wear a “proximity alarm” — a device that plays an audio alert when a person is within six feet of someone else (if the alert isn’t the chorus of Next’s “Too Close,” it’s a missed opportunity). Players will be given the option to wear the devices.

There will be golf

The most boring Paul Thomas Anderson movie will be music to the ears of players and coaches. Privately, the league office was peppered with questions about access to some of Disney’s golf courses. They’ll get it, though they can’t use caddies and they cannot share golf carts or equipment.

Deal ‘em and flush ‘em

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The protocols for card games are more extensive than you’d think — no more than six players in a game, face coverings unless the game is outdoors and no reused decks of cards. The last rule might be the most extreme — each deck is one-time use only. “Sufficient packs of cards will be available,” the health and safety manual promises. Here’s the passage:

“Although six feet of distance may not practicable when playing cards, individuals must still refrain from unnecessary physical contact and maintain as much distance as possible (and, for clarity and as described above, wear a facemask or face covering at all times unless the game is occurring outside and all participants are distanced by at least six feet). In addition, because distancing cannot practicably be maintained, individuals are encouraged to limit games to smaller groups (e.g., six or fewer individuals).

In the eyes of Lakers and NBA legend Magic Johnson, there has to be a continued fight against racial injustice and a united front with NBA players in deciding to restart the season.

Camp NBA

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The NBA has vowed to provide daily entertainment for the players, which could include movie nights, concerts, DJ sets (Shaq! Rony Seikaly!) and comedy shows. The events will all be outdoors with social distancing rules in effect.

Players only, Baby

Each team, in addition to private meeting and training rooms, will have a “players only lounge” complete with “NBA2K,” TVs, arcade games, ping-pong (no doubles!) and more. There will also be outdoor spaces for, you guessed it, cards.

Look good, play good?

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To make the experience as comfortable as possible, there will be barbers, manicurists, pedicurists and hair braiders inside the bubble.

Polish the rock

The NBA’s protocols for disinfecting its basketballs is as follows:

• Mix a quarter-teaspoon of dish detergent per gallon of water

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• With a clean cloth or towel, wipe down the basketball with the dish detergent-and-water mix

• Further wipe down the basketball with water alone

• Allow the basketball to air dry

• Once dry, spray the basketball with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectant

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Stay put

Players who leave the NBA’s quarantined campus will face consequences. They will be subject to a 10-to-14-day quarantine and a deep nasal swab test for coronavirus upon their return and can be docked pay for games missed.

The way out

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NBA security will monitor cars coming and going from team hotels in an effort to know who might be trying to leave campus. While no one will be stopped, players who leave without permission will be subject to serious repercussions. Players possibly could leave for extenuating circumstances like off-site medical care, the birth of a child or a severe family illness or death.

Game days

Since the NBA is playing multiple games at only three courts, players will have to go through most of their pregame routines on practice courts instead of the actual arena floor.

Owners have restrictions

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It’s a pregame habit for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer to meet and talk with Doc Rivers in the coach’s office. In Orlando, such a close-quarters interaction won’t be possible. Everyone in the bubble will be grouped into tiers, with players and coaches among the first tier. NBA governors (usually owners) are grouped into Tier 4, which includes those who will not reside on the Disney campus “and are prohibited from coming in close contact with Tier 1 or Tier 2 personnel.”

Hit the showers

It won’t happen at the arenas. Players will be allowed only to use their personal showers in their private hotel rooms, making for some uncomfortable bus rides from the arena to their temporary homes.

What’s on the list?

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At the end of the 33-page handbook sent to players, the NBA includes a packing checklist that includes clothes and equipment such as golf clubs, beach towels and yoga blocks, personal hygiene products, three months of prescription medicine, personal electronic devices, gaming consoles, humidifiers, books and “personal hobby supplies.”

Guests are OK, but at a cost

Teams that advance past the postseason’s first round can reserve up to 17 rooms for guests. Whether guests would be allowed had been a major concern for those participating, but any visits will come at a cost: Players are responsible to pay for the hotel rooms used by their guests. However, food and coronavirus testing for guests goes on the NBA’s bill. Guests who leave the bubble are not allowed to return.

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Breaking the law, breaking the law

The NBA is serious about the health and safety rules. Players who fail to comply could be punished with a warning, a fine, a suspension or even expulsion. Team staff can be removed without warning. Same goes for the guests of players.

1-800-S-N-I-T-C-H-N

Teams are required to report any potential or actual violations of the protocols to the league office. They must also report any discipline they hand out as a result of violations. But maybe most interestingly, players will also have access to an anonymous hotline to report violations.


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