The NBA and the NBPA met Tuesday afternoon to agree to new health and safety protocols that will take effect immediately for at least the next two weeks as the league tries to get a handle on a recent spike in cases on several teams around the league. As of Tuesday afternoon, the league has had to postpone a total of five games this season, including four within the past week due to recent outbreaks on the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards.
The new guidelines agreed upon by the league and NBPA are as follows:
- Players and team staff are not allowed to leave their houses when in their own market, aside from attending any team-related activities at the arena or practice facility, exercising outside, for essential services or in case of emergency.
- Any pregame meeting inside the locker room cannot last longer than 10 minutes and everyone must wear masks. Any other meetings between players and team staff must happen on the court, in a league-approved space or in a room large enough inside the arena to accommodate six feet between everyone involved. Masks must be worn at all times.
- For team flights, players can only sit next to teammates who they will sit next to on the bench, and any treatment sessions (i.e. massages, physical therapy) must occur in a hotel's ballroom or a large enough space to create at least 12 feet of space between each station.
- Players cannot arrive at the arena on game days any earlier than three hours before tipoff and must limit interactions before and after games to elbow or fist bumps. Extended socializing before and after games with opposing players is discouraged.
- Masks must be worn by players at all times while on the bench during games. When a player exits a game, before they return to the bench they can sit in "cool down chairs" that will be set up at least 12 feet from the team bench and six feet apart from each other where they won't be required to wear masks. When a player is done cooling down, they must return to their assigned seat on the bench while wearing a mask until they enter the game again. Masks must always be worn in locker rooms, during workouts and when interacting with anyone outside of their household. Coaches and team staff are also required to wear masks at all times.
- Any person who regularly visits a player's house for professional reasons -- like personal chefs, trainers, agents and managers-- must undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week. If a team has a positive coronavirus test among players or team staff, the league may force the entire team and staff to undergo testing twice-a-day, in addition to regular daily testing.
These guidelines will remain in place for a minimum of two weeks, and then the league can reevaluate where it is in terms of cases. The hope is that these new protocols will help curb the current spread of the virus around the league, and there won't be a bigger disruption to the schedule aside from postponed games here and there. The NBA has already expressed that it has no intention of taking a significant pause in the season, and hope that this rough patch won't extend much further as a vaccine becomes more widely available in the coming months.