As the NBA tightened coronavirus protocols to try to preserve a shaky season amid positive tests, shortened rosters and game postponements, the league made a dramatic change that most franchises had wanted all along: shutdown from rooms to non-team guests at highway hotels.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association reached an agreement on Tuesday on several more revisions to the policy, including the league further limiting the movement of players and staff on road trips. The league no longer allows players and staff to leave hotels for non-team activities, as well as removing visitors to hotel rooms, which a general manager had told ESPN was “the Mack truck that handles all of our protocols. “
Previously, players were allowed to have up to two guests in hotel rooms, including those who were longtime family members and personal friends.
The NBA has had to postpone four games this week, including three involving the Boston Celtics, who are unable to muster eight eligible players due to COVID-19 issues. Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington and Chicago are among the teams that have had significant losses of active players due to positive testing and contact tracing.
Beyond the changes involving guests on the road, the two sides agreed on several other things to tighten protocols amidst various teams that have large groups of players testing positive for COVID-19 or caught in tracking contacts as a result of those positive tests.
Until at least January 26, when teams are in their local markets, both players and staff must stay home unless they are going to a team-related activity, exercising outside, engaging in essential activities, or ” as a result of extraordinary circumstances “.
They are also supposed to limit interactions outside of work with family, household members, and staff working in your home.
Anyone who regularly visits a player or staff member’s home should have two COVID-19 tests per week. Meanwhile, teams that have players who have tested positive or a high-risk staff member may require players and team staff to undergo five consecutive days of laboratory testing twice a day, in addition to daily testing at the point of care.
Additionally, until at least January 26, pregame locker room meetings cannot last more than 10 minutes. All other meetings involving players and staff must take place on the court, in a league-approved space, or in an arena in a room large enough so that everyone involved is at least six feet apart. Everyone in these meetings must wear masks at all times.
Players cannot now reach the arena more than three hours before the start of game days. Meanwhile, interactions with players before and after the game should be limited to bumping elbows or fists, prolonged socialization should be avoided, and a distance of six feet should be maintained as much as possible.
On team flights, teams must now structure their seating charts on airplanes to mimic their bench seating charts during games, while all treatment sessions in hotels, including massages and physical therapy, must occur in large, open spaces with 12 feet between stations. These interactions also require both masks and face shields.
Players must now also wear skins on the bench at all times. There will be a cool-down period when a player leaves a game, with a designated area where they don’t need to wear a mask right away. However, once a player has done so, they have to return to their seat and wear a mask until they return to the game.
Also now they must always wear masks in the locker room, when doing strength and conditioning, and when traveling with someone other than a household member.
Coaches and staff continue to always have to wear masks during games.