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NBA begins issuing protocols for players, staff in Orlando bubble

NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a reception

NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a reception for the NBA Japan Games 2019 in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.  Credit: AP/Kiichiro Sato

The protests go on and many of the NBA’s players remain committed to being a part of it. The coronavirus COVID-19 rages on with spikes in many parts of the country. That includes Florida, where the league is set on resuming the season which was suspended more than three months ago.

But under these clouds, the NBA is moving forward with the plan to return to the court.

Tuesday, the league sent a memorandum to all teams and a handbook for players which was obtained by Newsday. It outlines the details of the resumption of the season, setting a schedule of six phases and the process has already begun.

By June 24 players must inform their teams if they are not willing to be a part of this season, whether it is because of safety concerns or for the desire to focus on social justice issues.

For 22 teams, it will include up to three months in isolation, but the sort of cushy, pampered lifestyle that clearly is no reason to feel too sorry for them.

Let’s start with the worst-case scenario — the six teams that haven’t yet put themselves in position for a playoff spot. They will have to make due at Disney’s Yacht Club. The website for the resort describes it this way: “Delight in the formal grace of a grand New England-style yacht club at this lakeside hotel. Relax in the inviting elegance of a plush lobby replete with nautical touches, explore the whimsical Stormalong Bay and rent a variety of watercraft from Bayside Marina.”

It gets better from there for the other 16 teams. For all of the players amenities will include a players only lounge which will include NBA2K, TVs, arcade gaming and Ping-Pong. There will be resort spaces outdoors set up for card games and pool access. There will be barbers, manicurists and hair braiders. there will be daily entertainment with movie screenings, DJ sets and a 24-hour VIP concierge.

If the atmosphere won’t be as soul-crushing as some have made it sound, there is a reality and a downside to this entire process that the league must navigate right now. The easy part is happening right now with Phase 1 of the six-part plan, which involves gathering players at the team’s home cities for voluntary, individual workouts or treatment, submitting medical history questionnaires and starting at-home self-quarantining.

For now, players are urged to avoid contact with others and situations with elevated risks. Although in a nod to the efforts to stand with players as they speak loudly for social justice, the league is not discouraging them from engaging in protests. They're being asked simply to take the necessary precautions when doing so.

But that is just the prelude to the next steps — testing, quarantining and assuring the safety of as many players and staff members as possible in a world that still doesn’t have the answers to halting the virus.

Here is the most alarming part of the 113-page document sent to teams — there is already an emergency escape plan. Near the end of the memo the league reminds the teams and players that, “The occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season. The NBA and NBPA will continue to monitor the campus environment and season restart and, based on circumstances over the course of the resumption of the 2019-20 season, may discuss any modifications to the campus environment or these Protocols if the parties and their medical experts agree such measures are necessary to promote safety (e.g., increased physical distancing, dismissal of guests from the campus, additional health monitoring).”

The protocols taken by the league are strict enough to believe that they can work with testing and quarantining. But the league also notes in the document that much of the efforts will be self-policing, trusting players to avoid any outside contact.

If the league will not stop the resumption of the season for a positive test or an acceptable and expected number of positive tests, there are strict protocols for a player returning to play. In the case of a positive test, before a player can return he must undergo cardiac screening before resuming training for a period of two weeks from his last symptom or positive test.

New York Sports