As the NBA continues to face the reality of trying to play the 2020-21 regular season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league sent a memo to teams on Wednesday night detailing plans to try and complete tests already in place for players and referees with tests located on game day in all 28 NBA cities.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, asks each team to spend the next two days trying to find local test providers; the league plans to discuss those results with the teams over the weekend with the aim of starting implementing the additional tests next week. The intention is to find a local Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test provider who can perform at least 40 tests – enough to handle players from both teams, as well as night referees – which could be collected on morning of a match and returned at least an hour before the prediction.
PCR tests are more accurate than rapid tests but take much longer to process.
While BioReference – which manages the two daily tests the NBA already uses (PCR and rapid test) – will continue to be the league’s testing service, the goal of finding local tests in each city is to ensure that , in the If something goes wrong with the transportation of the tests, a save option is available to ensure that everyone is free to participate in tonight’s game.
Under the current system, for players or referees to participate in a match, they must have a negative PCR test the day before the match and a negative rapid test by the morning of the match. So, for example, players and referees participating in Thursday’s game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers are expected to have a negative PCR test on Wednesday and a negative rapid test on Thursday morning.
The reason the PCR test is dated the day before is that there are around 12 processing hours for these tests, so results usually come overnight. In cities where there is a BioReference lab, however, these test results can be reversed more quickly.
The additional testing comes following an agreement by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to tighten the league’s health and safety protocols, including, among other things, the closure of rooms to non-member guests. the team in hotels on the road, thus increasing the use of masks and further limiting team meeting times and contact with players. All of this is being done as the NBA tries to play out its season during a pandemic that continues to rage across the country and has dramatically disrupted the league’s schedule in recent days.
The NBA has now postponed nine games this season, including eight this week alone. Three of them were scheduled for Wednesday: Orlando Magic at the Boston Celtics; Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards; and Atlanta Hawks to the Phoenix Suns.