It’s one small step on the road back to NBA games, but it’s the first step that everything else will be built on.
The NBA will allow teams in states where stay-at-home orders are lifted to open practice facilities Friday. This was expected, and not every team that can will do it, but Marc Stein of the New York Times reports the NBA is going to allow facilities to open.
There are going to be a lot of restrictions and rules on these practice facilities: Only four players can be in the building at a time, and only one shooting at each basket; no head or assistant coaches can be present; players’ temperatures will be taken and they will answer questions about their health before they enter the building; the person rebounding shots for the player will have to wear a mask and gloves, and have on sterilized sneakers; the weight room will be reconfigured to create more space between equipment; and that list goes on and on. It’s incredibly detailed. Look at this note that the NY Times’ Stein passed along in his weekly newsletter from the league about sterilizing the basketballs between players.
If N.B.A. practice facilities indeed open Friday in states where shelter-in-place restrictions have eased, teams will be asked to clean and disinfect basketballs by following these specific instructions from Spalding and the league office: Mix a ¼-teaspoon of dish detergent with each gallon of water, use that liquid and a clean cloth or towel to wipe down each ball, then rinse the balls with water. Once a ball air dries, teams are to spray it with a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
While facilities can open on Friday for many teams, not every team is going to do it. Some are going to wait a little longer.
Then there are teams such as the Lakers/Clippers/Kings/Warriors in California that cannot open on Friday under their state’s regulations. California is allowing some businesses to re-open on Friday with social distancing guidelines in place — retail stores, manufacturing plants, and more — but gyms and team workout facilities are in the state’s third phase, which may not kick in until deep into the summer.
The California teams have reached out to state officials hoping to be allowed in earlier with their workout guidelines in place, but as of now they have yet to be cleared.
The concern for the league becomes giving some teams a competitive advantage, especially if the league is going to resume playing games at some point this summer.
Still, players are going to be working out in team facilities. It’s a small first step, but it’s an important one.