Basketball: NBA players must now restrict their movement to limit Covid's impact on season

The NBA has now postponed five games this season for Covid-19 reasons.
The NBA has now postponed five games this season for Covid-19 reasons.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS, AFP) - National Basketball Association players should remain at their residences when they are at home and in their hotels when on the road for at least the next two weeks, the league said on Tuesday (Jan 13) in a list of new health protocols designed to limit Covid-19's impact on the season.

The league, which postponed one game on Sunday and three games this week due to the virus, is trying to avoid a league-wide suspension of play like the one that derailed it in March before it returned in a "bubble" environment in Orlando in July.

The NBA said the new protocols, which take effect immediately, were issued "in response to the surge of Covid-19 cases across the country and an uptick among NBA teams requiring potential player quarantines".

For at least the next two weeks, players and team staffers are required to remain at their residence at all times when the club is at home except to attend team-related activities, exercise outside or perform essential activities, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Interactions away from the NBA club are limited to household members, family and any personal staff working regularly in the home.

When the club is on the road, players and team staff are banned from leaving the hotel, except for team activities or emergencies, or interacting with non-team guests.

Any pre-game meetings in the locker room are limited to no more than 10 minutes and all in attendance must wear a face mask.

All other meetings must be on the court, an NBA-approved area or at the arena in a room large enough to allow for social distancing with masks a must.

Teams must create a seating plan for flights so players with seats nearest each other on the bench for NBA games are nearest to each other on plane flights.

Any hotel treatment sessions, including physical therapy and massages, must take place in a ballroom or other other area allowing 12 feet (3.65m) between each station, with face masks and face shields required for all involved.

Players cannot arrive at arenas more than three hours before tip-off.

No excessive socialising

Any interactions between players before and after games are limited to elbow or fist bumps with social distancing maintained as much as possible and "extended socialising" to be avoided.

Players must wear face masks on the bench at all times and must enter and exit games through "cool down chairs" at least 12 feet from the bench with chairs six feet (1.8m) apart - an area where masking is not required.

After the cool-down period, a player must don a mask and return to his assigned seat.

Masks are required in locker rooms, at strength and conditioning activities and for travel with anyone other than a household member.

Coaches and other team staff must wear face masks at all times during games.

Anyone regularly visiting a player's home for a professional activity, such as a trainer, must undergo Covid-19 testing twice a week.

For teams with a positive player or high-risk staff member case, the NBA can require players and staff to undergo five consecutive days of twice-a-day lab Covid-19 testing in addition to usual daily testing.

The NBA has now postponed five games this season for Covid-19 reasons, and none of those games has been rescheduled yet. In addition to three games involving the Celtics, the season-opening game on Dec 23 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets was halted, as was a Jan 11 game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks.

The Heat, Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls all have multiple players listed in the NBA's health and safety protocols.

However, the league has said it has no plans to put its season on hold, as teams struggle to make available a league-mandated eight-man roster for games due to injuries and Covid-19 quarantines.

The league said its rules may be additionally amended during the 2020-2021 season "as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic evolves".