NBA possible return is exciting, but not without pitfalls


Did you feel it?

Even the suspicion, the slight possibility that life or sport is approaching half a step toward something recognizable as “normal” is enough to make your heart a little move these days.

We are all so easily aroused.

In the case of the NBA, even a very deliberately placed toe in the water sent ripples on Monday afternoon as the league released the basics of the advice they gave to teams to reopen their training facilities to players.

As some states and municipalities begin to loosen home stay guidelines – Georgia is one, with its mad rush to reopen cinemas and bowling alleys – the NBA has had to try to figure out how to advise its teams when faced with different rules menus, market by market.

The concern was that players would descend en masse to Atlanta or Oklahoma City or Houston (Oklahoma and Texas being among the states with NBA teams looking to reopen sooner than later) and start sweating alongside of the plebs at LA Fitness.

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After a few round trips over the weekend, it was determined that making team properties available to players was a better idea, since almost all franchises in the league have a version of the OVO Athletic Center Toronto Raptors – 68,000 square feet of sparkling hardwood and underwater treadmills – to work with.

On the surface, all of this makes perfect sense and – hopefully – would imply that we are in the first steps of a path leading to a version of the rest of the NBA season and playoffs.

The incentive is there, of course, with the league trying to cap its shortfall at around a few billion dollars.

And the guidelines seem pretty solid.

“The purpose of these changes is to allow players in safe and controlled environments to train in states that allow them to do so, and to create a process to identify safe training options for players in different locations. other states, “said an NBA statement. “The league has informed teams that it is not targeting until Friday May 8 as the start date for the new rules, and that he could postpone this calendar if developments justify it. “

The release then stressed that the training sessions were voluntary – they should be organized on an individual basis and only if the city is not subject to government restrictions.


• No more than four players would be allowed in an installation at a time.

• No head or assistant coach can participate.

• Group activity is prohibited, including practices or scrums.

• Players are not allowed to use off-team facilities such as public health clubs, fitness centers or gymnasiums.

Associated Press and Athletic reports added that players and staff would be required to wear masks in the building, except when training and that they could be subjected to daily temperature checks , among other conditions.

On one level, all of this seems to make perfect sense. Even with four players and four skill development staff and cleaning and building security personnel on hand, the OVO center is certainly large enough for physical distance requirements (apparently at least 12 feet to be the NBA standard). ) can be observed without much difficulty.

We should be so lucky to venture out to the grocery store.

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But it’s when you explore some of the details the league faces to get back to normal in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that the challenges emerge with greater relief, even undermining this suggestion for progress.

“The longest and shortest are the logistical hurdles that continue to arise when it comes to trying to put everything together so they can get to the point where they can play games, they don’t want everything just not say it out loud, “said a league source. “But there is so much money at stake that they want to keep trying to figure it out. “

Even the return to training illustrates some of the pitfalls, beyond forcing everyone to stay 12 feet apart while playing basketball.

In Ontario, for example, access to the OVO Center would depend on the lifting of provincial government emergency orders for non-essential services, which are in effect until May 6 at least. If these continue, the doors of the OVO should remain closed. To the credit of the various levels of government, these orders were issued with a prudent schedule.

“It is a roadmap, it is not a timetable,” Premier Doug Ford told reporters during the presentation of an intentionally vague framework to lift restrictions in Ontario on Monday. “We have come so far; we don’t want to give up. Right now, we have to continue to follow the protocol.

“Progress does not mean we can stop now. I will not set fixed dates until we are ready. They must be monitored and measured. “

Another problem is that all players or staff who went to the United States during the lockdown would be subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon their return to Canada, which would prevent them from leaving their intended location. to quarantine to say, get shots up.

If there is an odd couple of podcasting, that may be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t get along very well, but you will agree that this is the best podcast of the Toronto Raptors.

So, if Norm Powell were to arrive in Toronto on Tuesday from his Las Vegas home, he wouldn’t be able to set foot in the OVO Center until May 12 at the earliest. A more likely scenario is that players will stay in the market they are already in, close to their families, and hope that training facilities will be available there.

But there is also the fact that once Raptors players or staff outside the country return to Canada, they will likely be subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon entry into the United States, from less according to the Centers for Disease Control.

And who knows what the restrictions will be or will be on traveling from state to state?

About half of the Raptors’ players and staff stayed in Toronto while the league was on hiatus and the other half dispersed across the United States. Unless head coach Nick Nurse plans to host a hypothetical training camp through a Zoom call if and when the team can actually train, the Raptors will need to plan well in advance and may very well have to centralize in the United States when the time comes to avoid quarantine problems between the two countries.

To their credit, the Raptors took these matters seriously, as poor Chris Boucher discovered when he left his condominium to run errands while the team was supposed to be in quarantine after Toronto played against the so-called NBA “zero patient” – Rudy Gobert – whose positive test for COVID-19 on March 11 caused the game to stop playing in the league.

And the NBA has also been an opinion leader, with Commissioner Adam Silver making it a point to ring the bell every time the subject arises, namely when the league could resume.

“It’s about the data, not the date,” was his catchphrase during a conference call on April 17.

In addition, the league is well aware of the public relations disaster that awaits them if they push further for their players and staff to have access to the tests before they are widely available to ordinary citizens in the United States and Canada.

So while the use of an easily controlled environment such as a small and voluntary team practice center invokes different layers of rules and regulations, not to mention border challenges, it just provides an overview of the how difficult and ultimately impossible it can be to start a large-scale operation like reopening a league – even without fans and in one place, as it has been floated in various ways.

Just because something looks like good news, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.


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