NBA rumors: Nuggets push back re-opening practice facility to Monday

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MICHELE ROBERTS CAN'T remember when she first heard about the "bubble," the idea of isolating NBA players in a hotel so the league could resume its season amid the coronavirus pandemic. But she remembers her reaction to it vividly. "When that one was first floated," said Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, "there was some consternation."
A strict bubble where players are separated from their families, and only go to and from practices and games to a hotel, might seem attractive initially, Roberts said. But to enforce it, everyone inside would likely have to submit to some level of surveillance. And to Roberts, a former public defender and trial lawyer, that was problematic from the jump. "Are we going to arm guards around the hotel?" Roberts wondered. "That sounds like incarceration to me."
The hypothetical also didn't sit well with her constituents, the NBA's players. If a quarantined zone guaranteed players and coaches wouldn't get COVID-19, they told her it would be worth the sacrifice of separating from family and friends for several months. But without surveillance, how could anyone guarantee the bubble was impenetrable? What if a team staffer went to get a slice of pizza and became infected? What if an asymptomatic family member or significant other came to visit and spread the virus? If the honor code was too lax, but a police state was too draconian, what was the point of a bubble?
But one thing has changed -- the growing acceptance that if and when the NBA does resume, it will be in a world where the risk of contracting COVID-19 is ever-present. If the NBA is to come back in some form, there will be, by definition, risk. "This is a world with the virus," Roberts said. "And we have to figure out a way to work, play and live in a world with the virus. "The questions have now evolved from, 'Are we going to play again?' to, 'If we play, what are the risks going to look like?'"
Doug Smith: Raptors say they have permission for limited opening of training facility under tight NBA guidelines and rules. It will begin "the week of May 11" Th is not -- NOT -- a precursor to any resumption of play, it's letting a few employees at time back in the workplace
Publicly, the NBA has been vague about its plans to restart after suspending the season on March 11. There is no schedule for full teams to return to practice, nevermind to play real games. Privately, however, commissioner Adam Silver and his team in the league office have been making contingency plans for every imaginable scenario for how the coronavirus pandemic develops, according to recent conversations with sources from teams, agents, and the league. “What’s been hard for people to understand is the amount of flexibility that Adam has,” said one source with knowledge of discussions in the league office. “He doesn’t need to make a decision until he has as much information as possible based on where we are as a country and where the NBA is as a league.”
Multiple sources corroborated that Silver and his team have a decision tree that will guide the NBA’s choices. The league has the ability to chop off portions of the remaining schedule depending on what happens from both a player and public health standpoint. Here’s the league’s thinking based on a variety of possible events:
The Warriors are eliminated from postseason contention. The Cavaliers and Hawks are close, as are many other teams in the league, like the Timberwolves and Pistons. There is a belief around the league that their seasons are over. Some players want to get back on the court. “I’m excited to get some reps,” Cavs big man Larry Nance Jr. said. “I want the year to come back. I’m not gonna act like I know if we will, but I just really hope we do.” But one front office executive on a Western Conference lottery team said that while the NBA isn’t messaging that their seasons are finished, the thought is that the league won’t have the time or resources to bring all 30 teams to one location and play out the regular season.
“The first game when we get back will probably be a playoff game,” said a league source with knowledge of plans for resuming games.
A postseason play-in tournament has been weighed but is considered highly unlikely, according to multiple league sources. While a tournament could be attractive to fans and lucrative for the league in future seasons, it’s considered too dramatic of a shift in the short term.
It’s too soon to have this conversation, league front office executives say, because no one knows if games will be played and how much revenue those games would yield. The salary cap is set through a complex process based on revenue from the prior season, so right now projecting the 2020-21 salary cap is impossible without knowing if any more games will be played in 2019-20. And since no one knows when fans will be allowed back in arenas, next season’s revenue could still fall well short of expectations considering the amount of money made from live games.
The Israeli basketball championship will begin again on June 20, the board of directors of the Winner League decided. Winner League announced the detailed program and the stages that will lead to the gradual resumption of the season and its completion with the traditional Final Four format.
The NBA could buy or get as many rapid test kits as it needs to attempt to restart without fans, sources said. But politically, that's a nonstarter right now. "In order to do testing, you need the machines, you need the cartridges, you need the swabs, you need reagents, you need personal protective equipment, and a shortage of any one of these makes it difficult," said former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who has advised the NBA on the virus. "Which is why you've seen backlogs in so many parts of the country."
According to sources, teams believe they would need local officials to allow gatherings of up to 50 people to practice again and gatherings of up to 200 to play games again, likely at home practice facilities or Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This could theoretically accommodate families and be seen as a semi-bubble, a compromise where players wouldn't necessarily be subjected to such harsh social isolation or surveillance measures.
While the first wave of NBA teams prepares to reopen facilities for individual workouts on Friday, several team officials say the psychological effects of returning to organized activities during a global pandemic must be considered for players and staffers around the league -- especially those who already have a heightened concern about germs.
Several team officials said there are players and staffers on their respective teams who fit that "germophobe" description, though none felt comfortable sharing their identities -- and none faulted them for being extremely cautious on that front. But multiple Western Conference athletic training officials referred to this psychological impact as a powerful added stressor for some players that could no doubt inhibit their ability to perform, even if the NBA was able to create an ideal environment at some point in the near future.
Marc Stein: The Cleveland Cavaliers' Larry Nance Jr. tells @NYTSports that he plans to go into the Cavaliers' practice facility Friday when the Cavs join Portland and Denver as the first three teams to open their doors for voluntary individual workouts on the NBA's first allowable day. It is doubly significant because Nance suffers from Crohn's disease, which is typically treated with immunosuppressive medication that can make Crohn's sufferers more vulnerable to infections. But Nance says he has confidence in the drug (Remicade) he takes to combat Crohn's
While the first wave of NBA teams prepares to reopen facilities for individual workouts on Friday, several team officials say the psychological effects of returning to organized activities during a global pandemic must be considered for players and staffers around the league -- especially those who already have a heightened concern about germs.
Several team officials said there are players and staffers on their respective teams who fit that "germophobe" description, though none felt comfortable sharing their identities -- and none faulted them for being extremely cautious on that front. But multiple Western Conference athletic training officials referred to this psychological impact as a powerful added stressor for some players that could no doubt inhibit their ability to perform, even if the NBA was able to create an ideal environment at some point in the near future.
Marc Stein: The Cleveland Cavaliers' Larry Nance Jr. tells @NYTSports that he plans to go into the Cavaliers' practice facility Friday when the Cavs join Portland and Denver as the first three teams to open their doors for voluntary individual workouts on the NBA's first allowable day. It is doubly significant because Nance suffers from Crohn's disease, which is typically treated with immunosuppressive medication that can make Crohn's sufferers more vulnerable to infections. But Nance says he has confidence in the drug (Remicade) he takes to combat Crohn's
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton delivered a double-double off the court Tuesday in showing appreciation for those working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ayton had meals delivered from Ocean 44 to workers at Talking Stick Resort Arena and had Aioli Burger food truck provide 300 gourmet burgers to Banner Thunderbird Medical Center staff.
Dr. Priya Sampathkumar gets asked by her two teen-aged sons every day when they can expect to see NBA games again. She's among the doctors desperately trying to answer that question — and the NBA is now trying to help. Sampathkumar is on the staff at the Mayo Clinic, which is starting to get support from the NBA and its players for a study that will aim to shed more light on how antibody testing can help the medical world further understand COVID-19. NBA teams were told this week about the study through an invitation for players and staff to volunteer to take part.
It's a relatively simple process: Teams will receive materials from researchers, then have phlebotomists collect specimens that will be shipped back to the Mayo Clinic. Participants will also have to fill out a survey to gauge their level of potential exposure. Within two days, test results will be known — and because this is about antibodies, it will not take resources away from those doing other testing to identify those who are sick with the virus. Additional goals of the study include being able to identify more patients who could donate plasma and improve care for patients who are dealing with the coronavirus, plus potentially move researchers closer to a vaccine.
It was a worrisome time for the Celtics, who were put into self-quarantine when they arrived back to Boston from their trip to Milwaukee, but they had all the confidence in the world that Smart would beat COVID-19. He is, after all, Marcus Smart, Boston’s defensive bulldog who doesn’t back down from anything. “Marcus is just a great guy with a huge heart. I think COVID took a look at him and said ‘to heck with it,'” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joked during an interview with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche. “He’s so strong. Not to make a joke of it, but we’re glad he’s back and he’s fine. Everyone is working out and shooting baskets and hopefully we can unlock basketball soon enough.”
Healthcare workers are on the frontlines of the race to slow down the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, working grueling hours and risking their own lives to help save others. On Thursday, Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray showed his appreciation by donating 200 meals from renowned Denver Middle Eastern restaurant, Ash'Kara.
When basketball stopped in Italy around early March, Aaron Craft faced a decision that many U.S. basketball players abroad had to consider: go home or wait out the pandemic on foreign soil? Two of Craft’s American teammates on his Italian club, Aquila Basket, didn’t hesitate; they flew home as soon as possible. Craft had a personal holdup. He didn’t think it would be safe for his then-13-month-old baby to travel in the middle of such a frenzy, so he and his wife bunkered down in Trento, six hours north of Rome.
“Another factor was we were obligated contractually [to stay] at the time,” Craft said. “If we left and couldn’t come back, we forfeit the rest of our contract and salary. So we just didn’t think it was worth the chance.” While quarantining, the Crafts settled into a routine with their son, but outside things were getting worse. The death counts were rising both at home and in Italy, and lockdowns were tightening locally. Craft’s wife was stopped multiple times by Italian police on outdoor runs and told to go home. A few weeks into their decision to stay, the scales started to tip the other way. A return for basketball in Italy looked increasingly unlikely, and the risk of staying there outweighed the risk of losing any money.
“We were like, ‘OK, we’ll leave and just take our chances,’” Craft, now in Ohio, said. “‘If I need to come back, I can come back by myself and not put my wife and son through it.’”
As basketball calendars continue to get pushed back across the globe, the uncertainty hasn’t diminished, and the lasting effects on the nomadic players, teams, and leagues—including the NBA—only grow. Craft considers himself lucky, in large part because he and his family are safe, but also because he had decided before the season that this would be his last one playing basketball; the 29-year-old is planning to return to Ohio State to finish medical school. “Contracts next year for players are going to be abysmal, unless you had a guarantee that you had signed from this previous year,” Craft said, referencing clubs’ reeling financials. “I do not envy those players that are having to make these decisions moving forward.”
Scott Agness: Pacers will NOT be opening up their practice facility on Friday, the first date allowed by the NBA, for individual workouts. Indy’s stay-at-home order was extended to May 15. Nate McMillan encouraged players to ramp up training and mentally prepare for the season to resume.
Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is urging the NBA to adopt a balance between proper coronavirus safety measures and players getting back to work with the league allowing teams to open their facilities on Friday. The Trail Blazers, along with the Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers, plan to open their facilities Friday in states in which the government has eased the stay-at-home mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been almost two months since the NBA suspended its season on March 11, and the league is seeking to exhaust all options in hopes of salvaging the 2019-20 season. Players are encouraged to stay in shape until health experts are able to decide whether a return to league play is feasible.
“I am worried like the rest of the world, but I like that it is optional and I’m pleased with the caution, structure and measures the Blazers organization has put in place to ensure the safest environment possible for all parties involved,” McCollum told Yahoo Sports. “I get the measures [the league is] taking, but you have to think at some point when there are drastic measures that need to be taken, ‘Is it really worth it?’ It’s either safe or it’s not. … And let’s just be honest, man, it’s not like it will be the first time players got gym access outside of the team’s facilities. Some people have been working out, if we’re being honest.”
Despite feeling uneasy about working out at the team facility, McCollum — who is also vice president of the National Basketball Players Association — intends to go in on Saturday to evaluate if it’s possible to safely execute a workout with so many restrictions. “The issue is you can go to your practice facility, but there’s all these stipulations,” McCollum told Yahoo Sports. “You can’t use certain stuff, can’t do certain stuff. Now they’re talking about you might have to be 12 feet away from your strength coach. How are you going to lift 12 feet away from somebody?”
Rockets sources, however, said that D'Antoni has determined that he would coach if the season resumes, in large part because of confidence in NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office to create as safe an environment as possible. Sources said D'Antoni, who has been sheltering in place at his Houston home and plans to take precautions such as wearing a mask, has faith that Silver would not allow the league to resume if the safety of players, coaches and staffers would be compromised.
Tina Cervasio: Garrett Temple: #Nets Garrett Temple tells me on @fox5ny about NBPA scheduled call, where #NBA Commish Adam Silver will be checking in. "We actually have a call on Friday w/the League. I've been on a few calls as 1 of the vice presidents on the executive committee for our union. And just trying to figure it out at the end of the day. It's so fluid & really nobody has a single answer. We know obviously it's not going to happen this month, if it does start...maybe late June. Obviously a bunch of different scenarios have been thrown out, but until States, have lifted certain regulations and until we can try to get this thing, this virus under control, we really don't know what's going to happen."
Tim Reynolds: Wednesday is the day the Heat are now targeting for a reopening of their facility to players for voluntary workouts, per source. (Disclaimer: Dates for virtually everything in sports right now should be called "fluid.")
Giant cinnamon rolls are sweeping the state of Oregon and beyond for a great cause. Portland's Whitney Rutz is using her baking skills to boost the happiness of healthcare workers in the area as well as fundraise for the Oregon Food Bank. After Whitney had two friends diagnosed with COVID-19, she wanted to do her part to help out during the pandemic. Whitney’s husband, Paul, and their daughter have been a big part in designing the boxes that house what Rutz calls, “Whitney’s Giant Ass Cinnamon Rolls.” It started with baking huge, delicious looking, cinnamon rolls as a way for Rutz to cope with the pandemic, and then quickly turned into the realization she could auction off the tasty treats. Once the enormous cinnamon rolls went viral on social media, Rutz partnered with the Oregon Food Bank.
Now, enter Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. Coach Stotts is featured on this week's special cinnamon roll box design and even posed for a picture with the box. Whitney’s husband, Paul, a Portland-based portrait painter, designed the Coach Stotts inspired box. Whitney told NBCSNW, Coach Stotts "has been so incredibly generous with his time in working with us to put his image on the boxes and autograph them."
The Hawks will not open their practice facility Friday, according to general manager Travis Schlenk, but are looking at next week as a potential timetable.
Sarah Todd: The Utah Jazz are offering refunds and credits to season ticket holders for the 2019-20 season. As for the 2020-21 season, for those who are on a payment plan, a deferment of March's payment was offered but not April and no word on May. For those who have paid in full, no word
The Cleveland Cavaliers are reopening their practice facility for limited individual workouts starting on Friday, league sources tell cleveland.com. General manager Koby Altman and the medical staff informed players during Zoom calls on Wednesday afternoon, sources say.
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck has donated $1 million toward local efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, according to The Boston Globe. The report detailed the efforts being made by scientists at Mass General Hospital and Mass. Eye and Ear to try to protect people from the disease. Grousbeck is no stranger to the local medical industry, as he is the chairman of the board for Mass. Eye and Ear, where the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center is named after him.
“My wife and I wanted to do something to fight COVID-19, and we have total faith in [director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center Luk Vandenberghe] and the quality of his team,” Grousbeck told the Globe. “We will need several vaccines to succeed to cure the world, and we’re trying to cure the world here.” “This is a major priority of the institution,” Vandenberghe told the Globe. “We’re trying to move as fast as possible.”
Marc Stein: NBA teams will receive a further update Wednesday on the various specifics involved, league sources say, with any strength and conditioning activities (such as weightlifting with a spotter) prohibited if it requires players and staff members to be closer than 12 feet apart
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