NBA rumors: League updates masking rules

Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA has informed its 30 teams of updated rules: — Starting Tuesday, all active players who are dressed to play must wear face mask until they enter the game — All players, coaches and staffers in Tiers 1/2 must wear a mask when outside team setting and indoor

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Shams Charania: After exiting court, active players are strongly recommended to wear mask in bench area. The requirement resets at halftime (wear mask at start of second half until they enter the game). Inactive players remain required to wear mask for entire game.
As long as Durant continues to test negative for the coronavirus, the soonest he can return comes against the Denver Nuggets on January 12. Durant, who had COVID-19 in May, has continued to register coronavirus antibodies and tested negative for the virus three times in recent days, sources said.
Jonathan Feigen: Ben McLemore, cleared from his self-isolation period, takes a seat for a media Zoom call with "I'm baaaaaaaack." Asked if he had symptoms, he said, "I'm healthy. I'm excited."
Eight members of the Clippers’ support staff had to drive vans back to Los Angeles from Utah over the weekend. Why? Because one of them tested positive for COVID-19, and contract tracing found that the other seven all dined No. 8 in a suite at the team hotel on New Year’s Eve. Mask wearing in the room was occasional. ESPN first reported the incident. A Clippers source said there were no league protocol violations but called the situation “unfortunate.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: Several members of Clippers support staff are quarantined in Salt Lake City after a positive coronavirus test. Contact tracing led back to eight people attending a New Year’s Eve meal at a presidential suite in the team hotel with intermittent mask-wearing.
Mirjam Swanson: Confirming ESPN, per source: Under the league’s new COVID-19 health and safety protocols, a number of the Clippers’ staffers are in quarantine — they have sufficient support with the team for tonight’s game in Phoenix.
Anthony Chiang: Heat guard Avery Bradley wasn't at practice today because of the NBA's health and safety protocols. He has not yet been ruled out for tomorrow's game vs. OKC, though.
Luis Scola tested positive for coronavirus according to Argentinian website Clarin. The veteran former All-EuroLeague forward and captain of the Argentinian national team is reported to be among the 12 members of Varese that tested positive for COVID-19, as the club announced Saturday (2/1).
Rob Schaefer: Chandler Hutchison tested positive for COVID-19, per Bulls coach Billy Donovan. He’s still in DC. Markkanen, Satoransky and Arcidiacono are in Chicago
Michael Singer: Confirmed that Michael Porter Jr. won't be available for tonight's game due to health and safety contact tracing protocols, as @Shams Charania reported. I'm told the team's expectation is that he'll be out multiple games.
But during Thursday’s practice in San Francisco, where the Blazers will play Golden State on Friday, there was significance to the feat, because of what Little has gone through this month. On Dec. 1, as part of the NBA’s testing of players and staff, Little learned that he had contracted COVID-19. It wasn’t until Dec. 22 that Little recorded his first negative test and was able to rejoin the team. In between, he experienced three weeks of hell.
“For me, I was on the worst part of the spectrum, the hard end of the disease,” Little said. “I didn’t have to go to the hospital or be on a ventilator, but I went through it bad. It hit me really bad. For about seven to 10 days, I was just really miserable.”
Although he is back around his teammates, Little is far from returning to a game. The virus ravaged his body. He lost 20 pounds. And his conditioning and strength are nowhere near where he needs to be to compete against NBA players. His battle with COVID-19 is another chapter in a bizarre and trying first season with the Blazers, when it seemed like every time the first-round pick was turning a corner, he was thwarted by a fluke circumstance.
The NBA is placing a significant burden on team officials to monitor and mete out discipline in cases of COVID-19 protocol violations among players and staff, the league told teams on Thursday in a memo obtained by ESPN. The memo comes on a day that four Chicago Bulls players -- Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono, Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison -- were ruled out against the Washington Wizards because of league health and safety protocols.
The NBA reminded teams that it can become aware of potential violations through a number of avenues, including reporting by team or league personnel, media and social media reports, review of game broadcasts and calls to the league-established health and safety hotline. The NBA told teams that they must follow normal disciplinary processes in handing out punishments, including "determining the facts, providing the person alleged to have violated the protocols with an opportunity to be heard, and using principles of fairness, proportionality and progressivity in determining discipline."
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA teams have the "primary responsibility for monitoring and enforcing compliance" with COVID-19 protocols, league tells teams in a memo. "Teams are responsible in the first instance for imposing any appropriate discipline on players or team staff."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Other than league "assuming primary responsibility" for investigating and possible punishment for "In-Game" violations and "Exceptional Circumstances" (such as a meaningful failure of team compliance), league tells teams that rules compliance is significantly on them to enforce.
The NBA is planning to roll out an ambitious aspect of its leaguewide contact tracing program by requiring players and many team staffers to wear sensor devices during all team-organized activities outside of games starting Jan. 7, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN. Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals -- designations outlined in the league's health and safety protocols that include players and specific staff members, such as coaches -- will be required to wear Kinexon SafeZone contact sensor devices on the team plane, the team bus, during practices, and to and from the arena or their home practice facility in connection with team travel, the memo states.
The sensors do not record GPS location and will activate when coming within close proximity, which is defined as six feet, to another person wearing one -- a point that health officials across the NBA emphasized to quell concerns about whether individual movements would be monitored. It is expected that the "proximity alarm" feature on the devices, which was active in the Orlando, Florida, bubble, will be disabled this season. The memo states that the sensors will record "the distance and duration of in-person interactions" with others who are wearing a sensor, which the NBA believes will aid in its contact tracing reviews in instances of positive cases. Such reviews will be supplemented with interviews of players and staff members, as well as potentially examining camera footage at team facilities, to better understand who might have been exposed to an infected individual.
One health official with direct knowledge of the situation noted that the sensors should significantly help in better determining which players or staff might need to be quarantined should the situation arise. "We don't want to have to needlessly quarantine someone that doesn't need to be," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Spectators are not allowed in most NBA markets due to local health orders, but a limited number of fans will be in attendance when John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins make their Houston Rockets debuts against the Kings on Thursday. Houston is one of the few NBA cities where fans are being permitted under strict COVID-19 protocols. Up to 4,500 are expected at the Toyota Center when the Rockets (0-2) entertain the Kings (3-1) in their home opener on New Year’s Eve.
From the start of COVID-19’s arrival, Silver and the NBA trusted science, medicine and data and listened to infectious disease, mental and public health experts, virologists, epidemiologists, microbiologists and researchers. “The NBA from the beginning was a leader in response to COVID,” said Yonatan Grad, a Harvard assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases. “As soon as they had their first case, they shut down the league the same day. And I think the first really big cultural institution to do so. … They are bold and attend to and respond to public health issues even from the beginning. It’s in keeping with their values and their thinking.”
His status for the upcoming road trip is unclear. “We miss Alex. Alex is great energy,” Vogel said. “He’s one of our most vocal guys even when he’s not in the game, just talking on coverages. He’s like an assistant coach over there, helping guys through defending actions. He’s a big part of what we do, obviously, so we certainly missed his energy tonight.”
Alex Caruso missed Monday's 115-107 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers because of the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocol, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before the game. Caruso, who played 11 minutes in the Lakers' 127-91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, was considered questionable for the Blazers game because of a right hand strain, but Vogel clarified that it wasn't Caruso's hand that was keeping him out of the Portland game.
All players are required to undergo daily coronavirus testing this season. The Lakers conduct the tests at their facility in El Segundo, California. "We adjust the testing window based on what our day looks like," Vogel said. "An off day, I think we're typically doing something like 8 to 12, guys can come in any time during that window. And if we have practice at 11 or noon, we just adjust the testing window accordingly. For 9:45 shootarounds, testing starts at 7:30. So, we adjust it based on the day's schedule and if we're on an off day, we just drive in, go get tested and drive home." A league source, when speaking to ESPN about the testing requirements, said, "there's no such thing as an off day this season."
Eric Walden: Quin Snyder, on Rudy Gobert's return to OKC: "Rudy’s worked through all that. Rudy was vilified, and in hindsight we have a greater understanding of the virus. Rudy’s aware mistakes were made, but they’re mistakes that have been made over and over again by all of us."
Jeff McDonald: The Spurs vowed to listen to local leaders and health officials when it came to the decision to open the AT&T Center to fans or not. They did. Bexar County COVID numbers have been trending the wrong direction the past few weeks, so the Spurs' re-opening plan is on pause.
Cuban credits the NBA for prioritizing "the health and safety of players, employees [and] fans" and for "taking a science-driven approach rather than an emotional or political" one. "Players bought in and recognized the importance of this," Cuban said. "It wasn't just about playing a game. They realized that there were a lot of people whose livelihoods depended on those games being played and they took the responsibility seriously. And we got through our season with zero cases. Zero. It was incredible."
While filming season 12 of "Shark Tank" amid the pandemic, Cuban said the show "took a page from the NBA." "We all went to the Venetian Hotel and quarantined," he said. "When I say 'all,' not just the sharks who were filming, not just the entrepreneurs who were participating, but the several hundred people on staff doing production, doing hair, doing makeup."
Rod Beard: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services allows for a max of 250 fans in arenas. There are fans here at Little Caesars Arena, and most of them look to be employees and team families, from what I can tell.
Jeff Zillgitt: DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon, Mason Jones & John Wall are in a seven-day quarantine before they can return to practice, games or team activities. The quarantine will end, and they’ll be available to participate with the team assuming negative testing on Wednesday, per sources.
The source said that, assuming negative COVID-19 testing, the players can return to team activities Wednesday before the Rockets face the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. The NBA's protocols on contact tracing give the league the ability to make decisions on possible timelines for return if players continue to test negative.
Shams Charania: Due to a separate positive test for a Houston Rockets staff member, there is additional contact tracing being performed that involves guard Eric Gordon and others, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Ira Winderman: Per NBA:
Ira Winderman: Erik Spoelstra, on COVID control becoming a part of everyone's business on the staff, "It's been much more of a demand of everybody in this business." Notes how trainer Jay Sabol is basically working in the garage, clearing players to enter the building.
“It’s every day for us, and I know you wake up and you’re waiting for test results, and we’re testing all the time and talking to our guys about the safety of everyone, but a lot of this stuff is possibly inevitable,’’ Donovan said Wednesday in a Zoom call. “From our standpoint, you have to deal with what it is you’re dealing with, with people being out, but this is something that’s going to be going on for quite some time. And it makes it very, very challenging.”
“It’s not even necessarily people testing positive,’’ Donovan said. “A lot of it is the contact tracing and someone that maybe was exposed to someone that is infected. I’ve talked to our players about the safety part of it, but they also have to keep themselves ready. You can have a guy that’s completely out of the rotation, then for the next two or three weeks, he can be completely in the rotation. We have to do a good job, players and coaches, of making sure we’re all staying ready.’’
To account for that risk, the NBA and the players' association drew up a short list of approved restaurants that agreed to conform to specific rules and regulations. The restaurant must have outdoor space or a secure private room that doesn't share air space with the rest of the establishment. Servers must wear masks and faceguards, maintain a distance of 6 feet and be in the same room with players and coaches only when absolutely necessary. There must be a secure entrance and exit path to limit exposure to the restaurant staff and other diners.
The Memphis Grizzlies reached out to nine-time James Beard-nominated chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman to see whether they'd be interested in having their restaurants go through the vetting process. The Memphis natives and Grizzlies fanatics -- who have been shuttling caprese salads curbside to Grizzlies players on their way home for years, and count cooking for Gregg Popovich a career achievement -- jumped at the opportunity. "Being on that list was important to us," Hudman told ESPN. "Our whole goal was to make Memphis great. When these guys come to town to have a great place to eat. We'll have the ability to do just about anything they ask."
Many of the restaurants on the list are old downtown standbys -- lots of steakhouses and classic Italian joints, and a few Italian steakhouses -- some in team hotels and/or in close proximity to the arena. Rockets owner and restaurateur Tilman Fertitta occupies two of the four spots in foodie-hotbed Houston. Other Fertitta holdings, Morton's Steakhouse and Del Frisco's Grille, have multiple locations in the catalog.
Jeff Zillgitt: Houston star James Harden is in a four-day quarantine, which began on Tuesday, so it appears Harden will be available for Saturday's game against Portland, I'm told.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Rockets guard James Harden will be required to isolate until Friday and continue to test negative for the coronavirus before being cleared to return to play, sources tell ESPN. He should be available to play Saturday vs Blazers.
Salters: Right after you tested positive, there was a lot made about the mic touching in the press conference. What do you want people to know about that? Gobert: That it came from a good intention. It was the first day that we found out that the media was not going to be able to interview us, right next to us, and, you know, we obviously didn't know as much as we know now, and I only did that to try to liven the mood a little bit. It was, of course, if I could go back in time, I wouldn't do it.
Salters: There were a lot of questions about you and Donovan [Mitchell]. How was your relationship? He may have felt some kind of way because he also tested positive for the coronavirus. How did you and Donovan work that out? Gobert: When you look back at it, there was a lot of fear. It was a situation that was really unusual for every single person on this planet. We had conversations as grown men, and we told each other what we had on our minds. And the end of the conversation was that our goal was to win a championship together and, you know, I thought it was really mature from both of us to come out of the conversation like that. I said many times, relationships are never perfect. There is some up, there is some down, but as long as you stay true to one another, you stay honest and respectful to people around you, that it's really about being the best you can be.
Marc Stein: No suspension for Harden. I'm told the timeline for him to rejoin the Rockets, in terms of how many more negative coronavirus tests he may have to register, is still TBD. @ramonashelburne reported earlier today that Harden registered negative tests Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Marc Stein: Harden was not suspended in addition to the fine because violating the league's health and safety guidelines invokes an additional quarantine period for players. The extra quarantine mandates those players will be docked game checks for any games missed while they are held out.
Marc Stein: Harden, in other words, was fortunate tonight. He would have lost an additional $284,517 but saved that amount when Houston's game was postponed. Lou Williams, remember, was not suspended in the bubble for violating protocols but lost 2 game checks completing his extra quarantine.
Marc Stein: Update: Sources say NBA is docking 1/72 of a player’s salary for each game missed due to a violation of the league’s COVID protocols. So James Harden would have lost $567,000 had Houston played tonight. He will forfeit that amount if he misses any games due to future violations.
Marc Stein: When a player is suspended by the NBA, they are docked 1/145 of THEIR SALARY for each game missed. So the financial penalty for violating COVID guidelines is essentially twice as harsh. Houston’s next game is Saturday at Portland. League has not yet ruled on Harden’s availability.
Doug Smith: There was an inconclusive test for someone in Norm Powell's circle of friends/family, Nick Nurse just told us. It has been resolved and Powell is cleared to play tonight
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