NBA tightens Covid protocol

New rules, including staying at home when team are hosts, in place to limit virus' impact

Clippers guard Paul George taking off his mask before checking back into the game against the Warriors at Chase Centre. NBA players must wear masks on the bench at all times.
Clippers guard Paul George taking off his mask before checking back into the game against the Warriors at Chase Centre. NBA players must wear masks on the bench at all times.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • National Basketball Association (NBA) 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 in a list of stricter health protocols designed to limit Covid-19's impact on the season.

The league, which has postponed five games this season due to the virus, is trying to avoid a league-wide suspension of play.

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 staff are required to remain at their residence at all times when the team are at home except to attend team-related activities, save for extraordinary circumstances.

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

When the team are 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.

Pre-game meetings in locker rooms are limited to no more than 10 minutes.

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 games are nearest to each other on plane flights.

Any hotel treatment sessions, including physical therapy, must take place in an area allowing 3.65m between each station, with masks required for all involved.

Players cannot arrive at arenas more than three hours before tip-off, while any interactions between players are limited to elbow or fist bumps.

Players must wear masks on the bench at all times and must enter and exit games through "cool-down chairs" at least 3.65m from the bench with chairs 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.

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 league added its rules may be additionally amended during the season.

Officials are also investigating whether Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving violated the league's protocols after a video that emerged on Monday on social media appeared to show him at a crowded indoor party without a mask on.

The All-Star has already missed the last four games due to "personal reasons" and was again absent for a fifth - the Nets' visit to the New York Knicks yesterday.

Players have been prohibited from attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people and if found guilty, Irving could be fined in excess of US$400,000 (S$530,500) for every game he has to miss while quarantining.

Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement that the team was aware of the video and were "reviewing the circumstances".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'NBA tightens Covid protocol'. Print Edition | Subscribe