Every single NBA beat writer and national writer and broadcaster is going through this very same procedure every night they go to work at an NBA arena. The rules are clearly spelled out by the NBA, with everyone’s safety the foremost concern. Masks are mandatory at all times. You want a sip of water? You have to drink it in the concourse.
Media members have no choice but to adjust, and some beat writers are choosing to cover their teams from home -- unthinkable in journalism theory, a necessity at times during a pandemic. Things are going to remain this way for the foreseeable future, and it will not make NBA reporting any easier; simply more challenging. The more intrepid among us can handle it.
Under new media rules, after you pass your COVID test, you go to your assigned seat and stay there. Period. Unless you need a bathroom break. From the Nets' media seats in the 200 level (think “corner of the arena, halfway up”) one could see a pair of security guards come onto the court during every timeout, but there was nothing for them to do except go through the motions and look busy. There was no one inside the arena for them to crowd control.
Anthony Chiang: The Heat will have about 100 family members and team/player guests at tonight’s game against the Bucks. Although no set date yet on when fans will be allowed at AAA again, this is a small step forward.
Jeff McDonald: With Lakers in SA for two games this week, DeMar DeRozan applauds NBA for scheduling format that keeps a traveling team in one city for multiple dates. “You’ve got to understand they’re trying to limit travel as much as possible for health reasons. You’ve got to respect that.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ request for more fans at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse has been approved. Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud, who works for Governor Mike DeWine’s administration, informed the Cavaliers in a letter Tuesday afternoon that they will be granted a variance, allowing 1,944 spectators total, which is 10% of the arena’s capacity.
In the approval letter, the Cavs were informed that the number of spectators seated in a group cannot exceed six individuals from the same family or party in seating throughout the venue and all groups must have at least six feet of social distancing between them in all directions.
Facing projected losses of up to 40% in revenue for the 2020-21 season due to the loss of gate receipts, according to ESPN, players weighed the financial realities with the physical and mental toll of resuming play so quickly, leading to the shortest NBA offseason in history. “It was a no-brainer for us to start (early),” Monte Morris said. “It was something that some guys weren’t wanting to do so quick, just with the standard of being off, just getting done with basketball. Sometimes, you want to sit back and have a break.”
In an interview Tuesday morning, Nets and BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi told CNBC that the NBA will face huge losses without fans in the stands this season, but he’s hopeful that as things return to normal with COVID vaccines, arenas will be full again by the post-season. Abbamondi added he’s also hopeful that the NBA season will survive “bumps along this road” as the play resumes while the pandemic continues to rage across the country. The concern, he said, begins with players testing positive for the coronavirus.
Abbamondi told CNBC that NBA teams hope they’ll be able to welcome fans back in time for the postseason, when gate revenues —and team profits— are usually at their highest. In the meantime, the league has raised $900 million and will provide teams with $30 million each to stay afloat for the year. “We are optimistic that before this season is over, which will be in the summer of next year, things are going to look very different,” Abbamondi said. “There is a lot of caution, but there’s also a sense of optimism, and I think all Americans share that.”
Adam Spolane: Adam Silver just said on TNT that the NBA hasn't officially cancelled the 2021 All Star Game. They have cancelled the game in Indianapolis on the date it was scheduled for, but that doesn't mean the All Star Game won't be played
The Mavericks provided no timetable for returning crowds to the arena but said they will continue to work with Dallas County, AAC and NBA officials to “determine the best possible scenario” for a safe option.
One team executive described little conflict among his peers about whether playing games despite skyrocketing numbers of infections across the country is the right decision, citing the NBA’s preparation. Teams were issued nearly 160 pages of health and safety protocols this month.
And yet, the executive said, “do I think all 72 will be played for every team? No.” “When we went to Orlando, our expectation was that it was possible that we would have cases and that we would have to manage those and obviously that was as successful as we could have dreamed,” said David Weiss, the NBA’s senior vice president of player matters. “Now our expectation is that we’re going to have cases and we’ll have to manage those, especially given the backdrop of the country.
Mark Medina: Adam Silver projected the league would lose 40% in revenue if they completed an entire season without any fans. Six NBA teams are having some limited fans. TBD on how that plays out for the rest of the league.
KC Johnson: Speaking on a conference call, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said "we do anticipate there will be bumps in the road along the way" but remains confident league can complete 72-game season.
Eric Walden: Adam Silver, on a conference call, said that “it’s untenable” for the league to play a full season in a bubble environment, but that the league is starting now because “We’re comfortable with the health and safety protocols we’ve designed.”
The problem is that frequent testing is a reactive, and not a truly preventative means of stymieing an outbreak. A forgotten fact about the 2020 NBA bubble is that there were dozens of positive tests from staff, workers and other individuals involved with running the bubble. But the bubble was successful in preventing these cases from spilling over into the pool of players because of the hard barrier between the players and the rest of the bubble (and surrounding world). Bharti noted that “when you have something like the NBA’s bubble system, it’s defined by layers of increasing porosity around the tightly protected players [e.g., buffers between the players and the hotel staff, who move in and out of the bubble]. But once you’re in the inner bubble, the mixing and the contact rates inside of it are very high and the contacts are frequent. So if you take that configuration of frequency of contacts and intensity of contacts, and you try and do it without the peripheral buffers, you would very quickly end up in trouble because you wouldn’t have firebreaks between teams.”
The NBA schedule means more travel and frequent contact between teams. For all of the NBA’s problems with COVID-19, the structure of the NFL schedule facilitates more control over interactions between teams. That is, over 80% of teams usually play on a single day (Sunday, with most of the other matchups being single games on Thursday and Monday). And this schedule means that it is easier to control contacts through the rescheduling of games. For the 2020-21 season, the NBA has gone to lengths to change the schedule to prevent frequent travel and contacts (e.g., instituting a “series” structure as in the MLB, where teams play each other multiple times consecutively, all in one city).
The NBA may not have the personnel to withstand player losses that will come with team outbreaks. One of the largest threats to the NBA’s well-being resides in one of its strengths. That is, the league has risen to prominence so rapidly in part because it is a player- and personality-driven sport. And it is that way because teams are not composed of large armies of faceless individuals who can easily be replaced. Rather, basketball is a great sport specifically because singular performers have such a large influence. And part of this is reflected in the size of NBA rosters: 15 players, of which 13 are active at any given time. Because of this, an outbreak among three players on a given team would be much more challenging to compensate for than in the NFL, with its larger roster (53 players) and practice squad reservoirs. Given the interconnectedness of the schedules and frequency of travel, an outbreak on one team could have ripple effects throughout the league, complicating the schedules of other teams.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Monday that the league will never "jump the line in any form whatsoever" when it comes to its players receiving COVID-19 vaccines and that the league plans to work with the government on public service campaigns to promote the importance of taking a vaccine. "There's no way we'd ever jump the line in any form whatsoever," Silver said. "And, for the most part, because our players are so young and healthy without some sort of comorbidity, they will not be a high priority for vaccinations. There are some other members of the NBA community working on court who are older and will have a higher priority to get the vaccine.
Adam Silver: The forthcoming season requires a new approach. We’ll no doubt face challenges, but like people everywhere, we want to work if we can do so safely and responsibly. The NBA is no different than many other organizations trying to find their way through the pandemic by balancing several factors, including the potential for significant economic hardship. We are part of a U.S. sports industry that is responsible for 1.3 million jobs. Tens of thousands of people rely on our league and related businesses for their livelihoods.
Adam Silver: In the same way we prepared for our bubble, we’ve designed thorough health and safety protocols in consultation with public health and medical experts, the National Basketball Players Association and our teams that will allow us to return to our arenas. Many of the core principles that we relied on in Florida — daily testing, physical distancing, mask wearing and frequent hand-washing — continue to guide our efforts and the health and safety of everyone remains our top priority. Our season opens Tuesday night and we recognize the journey won’t be without obstacles. It will require extraordinary commitment from players, coaches and staff. But we want to get back to work – safely and responsibly.
“We know there are going to be challenges and bumps, but so far things are good and we’re optimistic that we have a plan that we can work through those challenges and bumps,” said David Weiss, the N.B.A.’s vice president of player matters. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said: “We won’t be able to eliminate cases and outbreaks. But if we can minimize them, then hopefully it can be as close to a normal season as possible.”
“We expected that the numbers would go down during this first phase of testing, as people started following the protocols,” Weiss said. “At the same time, we know that doesn’t mean that we won’t have cases. We know we’re not in the clear, and we can’t get complacent. We have to stay vigilant with the protocols. That’s how we succeed.”
Peter Edmiston: Grizzlies announce that games at @FedExForum will be played without fans for the foreseeable future, based on discussions with local health officials. Given that Tennessee has the highest covid rate on the planet, that seems wise.
Marc Stein: After allowing a small number of fans into its two home preseason games, Memphis has amended that policy — no fans when the regular season begins. That takes the NBA down to six teams allowing reduced crowds: Cleveland, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando, Toronto (in Tampa, Fla.), Utah.
Marc Stein: The NBA season will begin next week with seven of its 30 NBA teams allowing reduced crowds inside: Cleveland, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando, Toronto and Utah ... with the Raptors, of course, temporarily located in Tampa rather home
Marc J. Spears: Starting with its preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow night, which has been sold out, the Pelicans and Smoothie King Center will begin with a capacity of approximately four-percent, or 750 fans, with no seats within 30 feet of the court.
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA Board of Governors are approving a March 25 trade deadline, sources tell ESPN.
Tim Reynolds: The NBA's board of governors have approved a notion to have active rosters go to 15 players this season, up from 13. It'll almost certainly be a one-year change, done in response to the challenge of life in a pandemic.
The National Basketball Association today announced the League’s Board of Governors has approved the Coach’s Challenge on a full-time basis starting with the 2020-21 season. The Coach’s Challenge was introduced this past season on a one-year trial. The NBA’s Competition Committee recommended the move to a full-time basis before the Board of Governors’ vote.
Due to fortuitous scheduling, Morant and company will get to stay in Memphis for close to two weeks; their opening games against the Spurs and Hawks will be played at FedExForum. “We are one of the only states that will allow fans, so that’s a plus,” Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks said. “I can’t wait to see how many Grizzlies fans come to the game tomorrow.”
Tim Reynolds: Raptors announce plans for "fewer than 3,200 seats available for the pre-season game, and 3,800 seats for regular-season games" in Tampa. No floor seats, no seats sold within 30 feet of the court. Very similar to what the Magic announced yesterday.
Magic CEO Alex Martins said during a media session Monday that the first five regular-season games would feature a capacity of closer to 2,000 to allow fans to adjust to the new health and safety protocols outlined by the NBA, the CDC, AdventHealth and local health officials. “The most important thing and priority for us as an organization going into this season is the health and safety of our fans, our players, our coaches our staff, and thus the reason for all these protocols and the many protocols that we’re following from the NBA,” Martins said.
Martins said the number is close to the 25% maximum capacity being allowed by the NBA. From there, the Magic began to study the configurations of Amway and whether the arena would safely accommodate everyone for a game. Fans wanting to attend a game must go through a pre-arrival screening using a health pass app by CLEAR. During games, face coverings will be required at all times and physical distancing will be in place throughout the arena.
Roy Parry: The @Orlando Magic are planning to allow up to 4,000 fans at regular-season games, with the first five games expected to experience a lower capacity to allow fans to become accustomed to the health and safety protocols at Amway Center, the team has announced.
Josh Robbins: The Magic will host preseason exhibitions Thursday and Saturday at Amway Center against the Hornets. Magic officials said those preseason games will be open only "to family of the Magic organization during an evaluation phase."
Sirius XM NBA: "Those last couple of months of the NBA season are going to be incredible." Mark Cuban tells Frank Isola & Brian Scalabrine he’s confident a vaccine will help get NBA arenas rocking by the spring.
Fred Katz: The NBA is planning to administer a daily point-of-care, rapid testing system for the 2020-21 season, sources tell me and @ShamsCharania . Test results expected within approximately 30 minutes in home markets and 90 minutes on the road.
“In March,” one team executive lamented of the NBA this week, “you took the lead in the sports world. You said ‘we’re shutting down,’ for everyone’s safety. It was serious then. It’s worse now.”
The league is taking, according to sources who’ve heard its discussions with its teams, college and pro football’s position – essentially, we’re going to push through this season, come hell or high water. Football is doing so despite dozens of teenagers getting infected, and numerous college games being canceled. The NFL forges on, despite players being pulled off the field moments before games because of positive tests, or the folly of a team literally not having a quarterback available to play a game. It’s the NFL; it’s incapable of being shamed.
My suspicion is the NBA’s position, writ small, is: could it be wrong to start now? Yes. But it’s worth making a reasonable try at it, and the people who potentially could be the most impacted will also be the most taken care of if they get sick. (While teams fly private, NBA referees will still fly commercial, though the league is trying to put additional safety precautions in place for officials.)
Andrew Lopez: Statement from team spokesman Greg Bensel on the Pelicans being allowed to have 4 percent capacity or around 800 fans at home games: pic.twitter.com/NWPlG7E6Wp
The Warriors can move ahead with training camp and their plans to play NBA games at Chase Center, despite Friday’s announcement of regional stay-at-home orders in the Bay Area, including one in San Francisco starting Monday at 12:01 a.m.
The Warriors, whose proposal to bring spectators back to games was denied by public health officials, submitted another plan for hosting practices and games without live audiences. That plan was approved, according to a league source, based mostly on the team’s daily coronavirus testing protocol for players and other employees.
James Ham: Fans will not be allowed to attend games at Golden 1 Center to start the 2020-21 season. The Kings will follow state and local guidelines.
Tom Orsborn: #Spurs announce they have "targeted" the Jan. 1 game against the Lakers for "welcoming fans" back to the AT&T Center in a "limited capacity, pending the status of public health data and guidelines."
Omari Sanfoka II: Not a surprise, but the Pistons won't have fans at the LCA to start the season. Per the release, they're working with the NBA and local officials to figure out when it'll be safe to do so.
Josh Robbins: In a release, Magic officials said: "Plans are being made for a socially-distanced, limited capacity at the Amway Center. Season ticket holders will be given first priority based on their tenure, followed by fans who have made a season ticket deposit."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: NBA’s Competition Committee registered strong support today for increasing league’s active player list for games from 13 to 15. Board of Governors must give final approval to a move that makes sense given shortened season and concerns over Covid impact on rosters.
"The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority, and after careful consideration in collaboration with the NBA and city and state officials, we will not be hosting fans in the United Center for the beginning of the 2020-21 NBA season," the team said in a statement. "We will continue working with the league and city and state officials to evaluate conditions to determine if there is a timeline that would allow for fans later this season."
The 2019 NBA champions spent a couple of months in Orlando — about an hour and 10 minutes east of Tampa – in the bubble before being eliminated by Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. (The Raptors were also the first non-Florida team on the ground in the Sunshine State, having held camp at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers in late June.) They have some recent intel on life in Florida. But this is still going to be a major disruption. While the NBA’s other 29 teams will have at least some sense of normalcy being back in their home arenas this season, the Raptors will be displaced — again — and likely practicing at hotels and other makeshift locations. How big will Toronto’s competitive disadvantage be?
“Obviously, I would love to be coming back to Toronto,” guard Fred VanVleet said last week. “I haven’t been since March, so it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Toronto has turned into my second home. Obviously, we miss the city, but I think we’ve gotta be excited about what’s ahead of us. I can’t not be excited about it, it won’t make the experience that great. We were in Florida for a while with the bubble in Orlando, and right back there in Tampa, so hopefully it’s a good experience.”
In addition: There will clearly be at least some competitive disadvantage for the Raptors this season, playing in an unfamiliar city without any of their longtime fans present, compared with the other 29 teams, who will at least be in familiar locker rooms and sleeping in their own beds after home games. Also unique to the Raptors: They’ll have to deal with the Super Bowl, currently scheduled to be played at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7. That will make securing accommodations for players in the days before that game all that much more difficult. In addition, no one can say with certainty at present how long a lease players should agree to sign while in Florida: Six months? Nine months? A year?
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
Shams Charania: Targeted NBA deadline for players to be waived and eligible for postseason rosters: April 9, sources said.
Joe Mussatto: The OKC-County Health Department issues a statement supporting the Thunder’s decision to not allow fans at home games. pic.twitter.com/rIHlpAkliL
Marc Stein: Still to be finalized, of course, is a firm NBA trade deadline for the 2020-21 season The league said earlier this week that its revised All-Star plans for this season will also be announced at a later date
Malika Andrews: Each team’s traveling party for the 2020-21 season will be limited to 45 people (including up to 17 players), per health and safety protocol. That is a slightly bigger traveling party than teams were allowed for the Bubble. Teams must register initial traveling party by Dec. 10.
Mark Medina: Per the NBA's memo sent to owners, GMs & training staffs: Nov. 24-30 – Voluntary individual workouts Dec. 1-5 - Training camp for required individual workouts. Dec. 6-10 – Training Camp for required group workouts. Dec. 11-21 Preseason. Dec. 22 -onwards) - Regular season.
Shams Charania: NBA-NBPA Core Health and Safety Principles for 2020-21 season: pic.twitter.com/IjtYUPPi77
Adrian Wojnarowski: Under "Circumstances for Cancellation of 2020-2021 season," NBA says: Occurrence of independent cases (i.e, cases not spread among players or team staff) or a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the 2020-21 season.
Rick Bonnell: Heard something interesting about training camp rosters: There are NBA teams not planning to bring the maximum number of allowable players to camp, on the reasoning that adds to potential COVID risk/complications. That means some teams would not have any more players than available roster spots. The downside: Fewer bodies to scrimmage, particularly if you have nagging injuries holding out rotation players.
Joe Mullinax: Coach Taylor Jenkins says training camp begins as early as December 4th but could be December 6th, as per the NBA. He hopes to start the 4th as long as COVID isn’t an issue.
Eric Woodyard: All-Star Rudy Gobert to ESPN on Utah Jazz allowing limited fans in arena: “I think that if they make it happen they probably have the scientific evidence that it would be safe for us and for the fans in attendance.” Gobert was the 1st NBA player to test positive for COVID-19.
Andy Larsen: Jazz announce their intentions to have 1,500 fans in the lower bowl only of Jazz games at Vivint Arena this season. “The Jazz believe this is a responsible way to start the season from a public health and safety standpoint," Jazz President Jim Olson said.
Eric Nehm: The Bucks just announced that their games in the 2020-21 season will be held without fans until further notice in accordance with state and local guidelines. Full release here: pic.twitter.com/LrPJqlJ9q0
Marc Stein: NBA teams have been notified that no more than 50 people at one time will be allowed in practice facilities this season, @NYTSports has learned The full range of health and safety protocols for the coming season, sources say, are still being finalized by the league and union
Chris Mannix: In what reinforces why the Raptors won't play in Canada, at least to start the season: Toronto is going into a 28-day lockdown, effective Monday. COVID-19 infections have been on the rise.
Ryan Wolstat: Masai Ujiri on Raptors heading to Tampa: "Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida."
San Francisco’s Department of Public Health rejected the Warriors’ ambitious plan to bring back more than 9,000 spectators to games during the upcoming NBA season, while pledging to work with the team to host fans at Chase Center once the coronavirus pandemic eases.
Warriors officials hatched their plan — which included coronavirus testing for all spectators ahead of games — over the past eight months. The protocols would have been the first of their kind and could have marked a new phase in the return of spectators to sports in the U.S. But local officials told The Chronicle last week that they were wary of the idea, especially as the state experiences its fastest increase of cases since the pandemic began.
Kellan Olson: NBA announced the structure and format to the upcoming season, including the play-in tournament with the 7-10 seeds being official. Suns will have 3 games against each team in the West (42 games) and 2 games against each team in the East (30 games).
September 22, 2021 | 9:43 pm EDT Update
“I talked to Steph Curry a couple weeks ago, and I was asking him about young players he might have reached out to and guess who he said?” Jackie MacMullan remarked. “Darius Garland, Darius Garland, he loves Darius Garland a lot, a lot, a lot. He thinks that kid is gonna be a flat-out star.”