As the 2019-20 NBA season remains suspended due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus, the league will soon be taking the first steps in moving forward from this shutdown. The NBA had initially intended to reopen its practice facilities in areas with relaxed social distancing guidelines on May 1. However, the league announced Monday that it will.
The city of Los Angeles has a shelter-at-home order in place through May 15, which means that's the earliest that the Lakers -- and Clippers -- would be able to open their practice facilities. The Lakers would like the opportunity to get into their facility before that date for workouts, though, and have been in contact with the Los Angeles mayor's office, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. If granted the special permission that they're seeking, the Lakers would be able to begin to conduct voluntary individual workouts on May 8. The Lakers haven't provided a return date to the players that are out of town, per ESPN.
The Lakers also held a conference call on Monday with their players -- conducted by general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Frank Vogel -- to discuss safety measures for whenever they are able to get back to business. This comes after two players on the team tested positive for COVID-19 last month. Considering the fact that it's been well over a month since games have been played, Lakers players are understandably "eager" to get back to action.
Some of the Lakers' planned precautions reportedly include taking players' temperatures from their cars, and having them answer questions from medical professionals before they are allowed access to the facility. The plan doesn't currently call for additional player testing for the coronavirus. In addition to whatever guidelines that Lakers put in place, the league also set the following guidelines for workouts at team facilities:
- No more than four players would be permitted at a facility at any one time.
- No head or assistant coaches could participate.
- Group activity remains prohibited, including practices or scrimmages.
- Players remain prohibited from using non-team facilities such as public health clubs, fitness centers or gyms.
Additionally, players in team facilities must wear face masks at all times except during physical activity, and team staffers must remain at least 12 feet away from them, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
While opening practice facilities is a solid step for the league, there's still a long way to go before games could potentially be played. First, a logistical plan to return to action (likely without fans) will have to be put into place by health officials in conjunction with the league. Then, the players will still need an adequate buffer of time in order to get back into game shape, as many of them don't have hoops and other necessary equipment at their homes and thus haven't played any sort of basketball since mid-March.
"We just want to play," Paul said. "We're trying to figure out what that looks like. Right now, I'm just focused on playing, playing in some form or fashion. ... This is a situation where no one knows. The virus is actually in complete control. ... There's a lot of hypotheticals out there. And that's great that everyone's brainstorming, and it's nice that everybody wants us to play, but I think the safety of the players, their families, fans, everyone, all that comes first."
While a return to basketball-related activities this season would be great, it's obviously secondary to the health and safety of the teams, players and fans, as Paul stated. The NBA will certainly explore all possible avenues for a return, but the situation is fluid, and something that the league can't control.