Over the summer, the NBA was active in assisting with education and enrollment around vaccine trials. The league worked with partners at the National Urban League and UnidosUS to help spread awareness and solicit vaccine trial participants in underserved communities. Additionally, the league took a first step last week when its health and safety protocol were updated to include provisions about vaccines. In the guidance, the league told players it would work with the National Basketball Players Association about whether taking a vaccine would be required if it’s proven safe. Or if not required, whether there would be separate protocols for players who were not inoculated.
Shams Charania: 8 new NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus out of 541 tested in latest round since Dec. 2, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are in final stages of approval, and the NBA could find itself as the first major professional North American sports league to manage widespread usage for players and coaches.
According to an array of discussions with league executives, team physicians and agents the league has been focusing on a few key areas: • A need to create an educational program for players and staff about vaccine choices, possible side effects and efficacy with the intent to put players at ease and be willing to take it. While this process is still in the earliest stages, some players have already begun expressing hesitation to their agents and team doctors about the vaccine, sources told ESPN. Educating the players about the measures taken to prevent the virus at the bubble in Orlando proved effective in fostering cooperation.
"I would guess that for most players, they will be willing to take it," said a prominent agent, who represents numerous players. "I think there will be a societal push for as many as possible to take it." Others feel it will be a harder sell. Among the issues, sources said, is numerous players who have had the virus -- and now have some level of antibodies -- may need to be convinced the vaccine is necessary. Between the season restart last summer and the start of this season's training camp, the NBA announced around 100 positive tests for players and staff. But that does not account for the numerous players and coaches who contracted the virus during the shutdown and in the offseason, only a few of whom have elected to publicly self identify.
"We are going to need someone they trust, who is not involved with the league, that can lay it out for the skeptical guys," said another agent who represents All-Stars. "Maybe it's someone like President Obama. To position this to the players as an opportunity to motivate others, which happened with masks."
The need to create a policy for how quickly the league will seek injections. Regardless of its resources, league officials know there are higher-risk populations that take priority including medical-care workers, nursing home residents, essential workers, and others. The NBA aims to respect whatever guidelines and criteria are enforced by the government and medical agencies concerning which populations will receive a vaccine early, sources said. With that said, league sources say the NBA doesn't plan to enforce any specific rules that would prohibit an individual from trying to obtain a vaccine if they wanted one while it's available. Even if that would mean some players and teams might get access to the vaccine earlier than peers who play and live in another city. League executives are already recognizing this type of policy could lead to a competitive balance issue at some point if some teams have the chance to be inoculated before others.
Numerous teams have close connections to top healthcare providers in their regions and the availability of shots could vary depending on the home state or region of the country. How distribution might play out is still being determined by local governments. The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 6 that some health officials support early vaccination for professional athletes to demonstrate its effectiveness and safety in a high-profile manner.
Crowder said Wednesday was his first full practice with the team and that he was previously attending to a personal problem that is now taken care of. When asked if he had any COVID-19 issues, Crowder said no and thanked the organization for letting him get done what he had to get done. “Happy to be back working, getting prepared for this season,” he said.
Sean Cunningham: Marvin Bagley III said he doesn't expect to be available for the Kings preseason game because of the protocols he's going through.
While the NBA expects positive COVID-19 cases throughout the 2020-21 season, league sources told ESPN there isn't a specific number of positive cases or a precise scenario that could cause a game to be canceled or postponed. In conjunction with league and team health officials, the NBA will consider several variables, including the nature of the positive cases and when, where and how they happened. For instance, teams could have a similar number of positive COVID-19 cases but differing circumstances for the total, such as potential spread in a facility or isolated cases at home, leading to the NBA's reluctance to create a fixed number that would lead to play being suspended on a given night.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: My life is at risk. Not just because I’m 73 with the usual annoying aches and pains that accompany age, but because I’m tall and I’m Black. At 7 feet, 2 inches, I’m statistically more prone to blood clots, lower back and hip problems, higher risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer, atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder), and a shorter life span in general. Being Black means I’m more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cancer, and a shorter life in general. Yup, tall people and Black people have shorter life expectancies. So far, in keeping with these statistical risks, I’ve had prostate cancer, leukemia, and heart bypass surgery.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I’ve been fortunate because my celebrity has brought me enough financial security to receive excellent medical attention. No one wants an NBA legend dying on their watch. Imagine the Yelp reviews. I’m also lucky that one of my sons is an orthopedic surgeon and another is a hospital administrator. Dad gets to nag them for medical advice whenever he wants. But while I’m grateful for my advantages, I’m acutely aware that many others in the Black community do not have the same options and that it is my responsibility to join with those fighting to change that. “Because Black lives are at risk. Serious risk.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how malignant the system is. The virus has hit the African American community at a much higher and more devastating rate than it has the white community. At the same time, they receive a lower standard of care. The death rate for Blacks is 3.6 times higher than for whites. But in predominantly Black counties, the infection rate is three times higher and the death rate is six times higher than in predominantly white counties. Other marginalized people of color are also suffering: nationally, hospitalization rates are five times higher for Native Americans and African Americans and four times higher for Latinx. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released August 14, 2020, concluded that in 79 hot spot counties in the U.S. that had information about race, 96.2% showed racial disparity in COVID-19 cases.
Marc Berman: Per source, as we wrote to Sunday, it’s official MSG Network’s Mike Breen and Walt Frazier will call Knicks road games from MSG studio at outset of season.
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA coaches are no longer required to wear a sports coats during games, sources tell @ZachLowe_NBA and me. Coaches must wear business attire (no track pants during games). Coaches must wear facemasks during games, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Coaches must wear masks at all times with limited exceptions when at team facilities or arena, during team travel and during practices and games, sources tell ESPN.
After a conference call with the NBA on Tuesday night, the National Basketball Coaches Association told ESPN its full membership is prepared to participate in the upcoming NBA season despite high rates of coronavirus infection and spread in many parts of the country.
"As we enter the season, all of the protocols and daily testing and travel reduction leave us feeling that we've taken the proper precautions to be as safe as possible," NBCA president and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN on Tuesday night. "That said, we know there are many more variables this season and we'll need to be flexible and able to pivot quickly."
The NBA's health and safety protocols for the upcoming season mandate all coaches, including head coaches, wear masks at all times while coaching -- a change from the in-game mask policy used during the league's summer restart in Orlando. The guidelines warn that coaches "must not regularly pull down their facemasks more than is occasionally necessary under the circumstances to perform essential coaching duties."
The NBA and NBCA also agreed to continue the practice of more casual game attire, no longer requiring coaches to wear sports jackets, sources said. Coaches voted more than 2-to-1, sources said, to allow for wearing polo shirts in games. Coaches must wear business attire, such as dress shirts, pants, socks and shoes, sources said. The NBA will disallow sweat-pants and jogging pants.
Despite that broader purview, employment law experts told ESPN the review process and unilateral prohibitions on attendance could run afoul of employment discrimination laws. Several argued that in setting up what turned out to be a secure bubble, the NBA had reduced risk to the point that the choice of attending should be left up to individuals.
Connor Letourneau: Steph Curry on James Wiseman having to miss his first NBA practices because of a positive coronavirus test: "James, it'll be a situation where we kind of have to see where he's at. ... He'll have to learn on the fly."
Anthony Slater: Steve Kerr said the Warriors' two players who return from COVID quarantine will need "several days" before being cleared to practice: "I know there's some kind of a cardiogram, a heart monitor testing because of the nature of the virus."
Jason Quick: Terry Stotts says one of the three positive tests in Blazers organization was a player. Plan is for team to have first practice Tuesday. Three players will be unavailable: the player who tested positive, Zach Collins (ankle), and Jusuf Nurkic, who just arrived Sunday.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Three members of Raptors organization test positive for Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/3yFEXNMZf4
Keith Pompey: #Sixers PF Mike Scott is not with the team at the start of training camp while waiting to clear COVID-19 protocols after receiving a positive, according to a league source. He's expected to join the team in the coming days.
Derek Bodner: Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Tyrese Maxey has not been with the team at the start of training camp as he waits to clear COVID protocols after receiving a positive test, per source. The expectation is he will join the team in the coming days.
Sean Cunningham: Kings coach Luke Walton says the full roster is not yet participating - had two COVID-19 positives.
Joe Mussatto: Two Thunder players were held out of practice today due to positive COVID tests, per Mark Daigneault.
KC Johnson: Garrett Temple reveals he has tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday. The Bulls’ first group practice of training camp is today. Temple will have to pass all safety protocols, roughly a 12-day process if it’s smooth, to return. He's 9 days in
Plenty of extra protocols will be in place for the Knicks road trips, according to sources. The players are expected to handle their own luggage at all times — a departure from the norm. The Post also has learned the team bus to the arenas can hold up to 12 people. That means as many as four buses may be needed to schlep coaches, trainers and players to the arena.
The Knicks will spend a lot of time on the road at the pandemic season’s outset — which means MSG Network’s Hall-of-Fame broadcast tandem of Mike Breen and Walt Frazier may not be around the club much. According to a source, Breen and Frazier are unlikely to make road trips — at least early on, according to industry sources. In fact, the NBA is leaning toward not having visiting team’s broadcasters travel to road contests.
Though the NBA has made no final decision, it is expected Breen and Frazier, under league rules, will broadcast road games from either a New York studio or their home. Considered the NBA’s most elite announcing duo, Breen and Frazier are permitted to broadcast home games from the Garden but not from their usual courtside table. Instead, they likely will be perched 30 feet above the court.
The NBA has warned teams that protocol violations that lead to coronavirus spread impacting opposing teams and causing schedule derailments could result in "fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices and game forfeitures," according to a memo obtained by ESPN. For players violating safety protocols this season, the league warns that the possibility of in-season quarantine and reduced paychecks loom as possibilities. While the memo doesn't outline the length of quarantines, it says that any such player "may be subject to a proportionate adjustment to pay for any games missed during the period that the player is in quarantine and undergoing testing due to engaging in such activities and/or conduct."
At home, players and staff are forbidden to enter bars, lounges or clubs, attend live entertainment or game venues, or visit public gyms, spas, pool areas or large indoor social gatherings that exceed 15 people, the memo said. Violations will include possible disciplinary action by teams or the league, including warnings, educational sessions, fines and suspensions. What's more, teams could be punished for failing to comply and for failing to report any "potential or actual violation, and/or any discipline imposed by the team for such violation." If teams are found to repeatedly violate the protocols, they could be subject to "enhanced discipline."
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA shared an additional Health and Safety guide w/ teams -- this time, 158 pages -- allowing for team/player dining at "approved restaurants" on trips, outdoor dining, or indoor restaurant in "fully privatized space," according to document obtained by ESPN. Details, details.
Adrian Wojnarowski: At home, players and staff are not allowed to enter: Bars/lounges/clubs; live entertainment/gaming venues (with limited exceptions), public gyms/spas/pool areas, or large indoor social gatherings (15 or more people), NBA tells teams in expanded Health and Safety Guide.
Tim Bontemps: In its updated Health and Safety Protocols, the NBA has included guidance on what punishments will be for breaking the protocol. For players and staff, options are fines, suspensions and potentially required training sessions.
Tim Bontemps: In the NBA's updated Health and Safety Protocol, the league also says that violations that lead to COVID-19 spread that causes schedule adjustments, or impacts other teams, could result in, "fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices, and/or game forfeiture."
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA will also provide twice-a-week testing for household members of players and staff, memo says. League is encouraging that to "enhance their protection throughout the season."
Shams Charania: When confirmed that a coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective, the NBA and NBPA will discuss players, coaches and staff being required to receive the vaccine, or additional health and safety-focused restrictions on individuals who elect not to receive it.
Shams Charania: NBA teams’ traveling parties are allowed only up to two guests in hotel rooms: Family members or longtime close personal friends who reside in the city. Traveling parties are strongly discouraged from interactions with those not associated with the team.
Zach Lowe: Updated guidelines also state that "in recognition of the significant health risks that influenza can pose," teams "must present" players and other Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel "with the option to receive the flu vaccine and strongly recommend they receive it."
Eric Walden: Mike Conley confirms he was one of the two Jazz players in the COVID protocol. Said he had close contact with a family member who tested positive.
Jon Krawczynski: KAT: "I've never been in a mentally good place since (his mother) went in the hospital. ... I wouldn't say (basketball) is therapy for me at all"
Rick Bonnell: BREAKING: @Malik Monk has tested positive for COVID-19, per @Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego. Monk has no symptoms, but will miss at least several more days of practice.
Gary Washburn: Brad Stevens said the #Celtics have members of the organization in the COVID protocol but he is not allowed to say who specifically.
The move to suspend testing in the bubble was bargained relatively quickly between the league and players’ association, sources say. The choice to maintain the suspension into the upcoming season is largely meant to minimize contacts and maintain COVID safety—or at least, that’s the party line.
When asked about the possibility of full, 20,000-seat NBA arenas in July, when the postseason is scheduled to conclude, Fauci said: “Ah, I think that'll be cutting it close.” The return of tightly-packed crowds will depend on a variety of factors, public health experts say, from human behavior to uptake of soon-to-be-approved COVID-19 vaccines. “We're gonna be vaccinating the highest-priority people [from] the end of December through January, February, March,” Fauci said. “By the time you get to the general public, the people who'll be going to the basketball games, who don't have any underlying conditions, that's gonna be starting the end of April, May, June. So it probably will be well into the end of the summer before you can really feel comfortable [with full sports stadiums] – if a lot of people get vaccinated. I don't think we're going to be that normal in July. I think it probably would be by the end of the summer.”
Faced with dramatically rising COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday the state will open the emergency field hospital at the Sleep Train Arena practice facility building in Sacramento’s Natomas area. Opening day will be Wednesday, Dec. 9, he said, with the first 20 beds available.
The Sleep Train site, which the Sacramento Kings NBA team used before moving to Golden 1 Arena, can house nearly 244 patients. Medical supplies are available, and the state can call on both state and federal healthcare teams to assist.
What happens if and when a player tests positive? Any time a player tests positive for COVID-19, he will have to go through a series of steps before being able to play again.
If the player is asymptomatic, he must sit out for 10 days from when first testing positive, then pass a cardiac screen and, finally, work out alone at the team facility for two more days before being allowed to return to full team activities -- assuming there are no issues. If the player is symptomatic, he must sit out for 10 days from when symptoms subside, then follow the same path as asymptomatic players.
If a player gets a serious case of COVID-19 -- up to and including going to the hospital -- he would have to work out alone for three days, rather than two, before being cleared to return to team activities, assuming everything checks out. Basically, fans can expect that if a player tests positive, he will be unable to play for at least two weeks -- and if he shows symptoms, that time frame could easily grow longer
What happens if an individual or a team breaks COVID-19 protocol? It remains unclear how the NBA will handle potential fines for breaking COVID-19 protocol. The league is still finalizing how it will handle violations, but expect the NBA to follow the NFL's lead in that fines will likely vary depending on the severity of each violation. The NFL has fined a number of teams for not properly wearing masks. The league also fined Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins just under $5,000 for making a reservation for a family friend at the team hotel.
Will games be suspended for positive tests? Much like the NFL, potential game suspensions or postponements will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. NFL teams have tried to play through the schedule when only a handful of players test positive in an organization, but schedules have had to be altered in outbreak situations. The NBA remains confident in its protocols, but it remains to be seen how it will handle the situation if several players on one team test positive at the same time
Rick Bonnell: A Hornets player tested positive for COVID-19 during initial testing before training camp, a team source confirmed. Which player, not public. @NickCarboniWCNC first.
Shams Charania: 48 NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus out of 546 tested during initial testing phase from Nov. 24-30, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.