COVID-19 forces changes for NBA players and staff

Abdul Al-Arshani, Staff Writer

The 2020-2021 NBA (National Basketball Association) season kicked off on December 22, 2020, with a whole new set of rules. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the NBA the same way it has affected other sports leagues across the world. The league has implemented a set of guidelines and protocols so that the league can continue to play. Players and coaches have had to adapt to these new ways of doing things due to the pandemic.

The NBA had initially implemented many rules and regulations and sent them out to teams prior to the start of the season. Among these rules are criteria for how many people can travel with a team, how long one must quarantine for etc. Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, will not be allowed to work out for a minimum of ten days and then must be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days. The number of people traveling with a team will be limited to 45 people, including 17 players, as they make their way around the country to play a home-androad schedule in NBA arenas.

While in the team’s home city, team personnel will be prohibited from going to bars, lounges, or clubs, from attending live entertainment or sports events, from using gyms, spas, or pools, or from participating in social gatherings with more than 15 people. On the road, players, coaches, and staff will be allowed to dine outside, have fully privatized indoor rooms, or have met COVID-19 requirements to be formally approved by the league and the players’ union. The NBA and NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) will work to provide a list of at least three approved restaurants in each market.

“It’s really on the guys to really own up and take care of responsibility and be a professional and try to abide by as much as possible the rules and regulations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and everything that they have been doing to stay protected and keep yourself and others protected,” Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart said.

An anonymous tip line will be made available to report possible violations of safety protocols. Players who violate the league’s protocols may lose pay for the same period of time that they have to quarantine for. The NBA may conduct unannounced inspections of team facilities to ensure that franchisees are complying with the safety protocols.

Due to many players having to quarantine, teams are having a hard time getting into a rhythm and winning. Many players are missing time and important players being removed from teams for an extended period of time can really hurt their team’s season.

“This isn’t football where you can play once a week. We’re playing twice, three, maybe four times a week and those are four games that at the end of the day, come playoff time, you miss those four games, you never know what may happen, especially in this loaded conference in the West,” Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell said.

Despite testing negative himself, 10-time All-Star Kevin Durant recently had to be quarantined for seven days due to being exposed to someone with COVID-19. The Nets did go 2-1 in Durant’s absence but if more players that are important to a team continue to have to quarantine, many teams will be in trouble. Celtics star Jayson Tatum was also recently forced to quarantine for an extended period of time after testing positive for the virus. “The Small Forward” is having an outstanding season putting up 27 points and seven rebounds.

Along with a few players missing games, several teams have had games postponed due to multiple players on the team falling ill. On January 16, the game between the Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns was postponed in accordance with the league’s Health and Safety Protocols. The Suns did not have the required eight players to field a team. Prior to that game, the league had postponed ten games in the previous two weeks. Many more games following the plan to be postponed.

The Washington Wizards may be the team-worst affected by the virus thus far. As of January 18, the Wizards have had five straight games postponed due to a large outbreak among the team. The Wizards have gone ten days without stepping foot on an NBA Court. They have seen as many as nine players enter the league’s health and safety protocol and six players test positive for the virus. When General Manager Tommy Sheppard addressed the media last Friday, only two of the cases were symptomatic. No staff members, front office, or coaches had tested positive. The NBA released only the first half of the regular season schedule, leaving the rest open for makeup games. But as they continue to pile up, it will only grow more difficult to reschedule them. The Wizards now have to make up games against the Jazz, Pistons, Cavs (twice), and the Hornets. The Wizards are off to a 3-8 start to the seasons and it’s not looking too good for them moving forward.

The NBA continues to do the best they can implementing and regulating these COVID guidelines. NBA officials are working hard to make sure the league can push through the pandemic so the season can progress. Players are quarantined as soon as they test positive or are in close contact with someone who has. The places teams can visit and go to are limited and will likely remain this way throughout the season.