COVID-19 guidelines and protocols have been put into place by the NBA as their season kicked off late December. Following the success of the Orlando NBA bubble back in July to October, the league has used that momentum to get right back to operating, while having to enforce stricter rules with how all of the players are no longer enclosed in the same resort.
In this current season that is now running to the normal speed of things, certain changes were made to the format. It started later than usual, due to the last NBA season ending in mid-October. The NBA has enacted a 72-game regular season that is a shift from the usual 82-game length of an NBA season. It started on Dec. 22 and will end in mid-May. It will then transition into the playoffs, with the 2021 NBA Finals scheduled to be completed in July.
As the United States is still combating this pandemic, the NBA understands that they need to be diligent and do the same in order to avoid a total failure. Like everyone expected, even with the stricter rules in place, players, coaches and staff will still catch the virus from time to time which has indeed happened. This has resulted in players missing games and not being cleared until being isolated for a certain amount of time. Game postponements have also been the result of certain team outbreaks, which is the case when a team doesn’t have at least eight players available to suit up.
Ever since the Thunder and Rockets game was postponed on Dec. 23, 24 games in total have been postponed at various points so far, but as time passes, the number of games being postponed are decreasing at a steady rate. This shows how efficiently the league is adapting and being attentive to the issue. Even when contract tracing investigations are put into place for teams and things aren’t looking too good, the NBA guidelines state that there are no criteria stated for what might prompt the suspension of the NBA season.
“If teams are only down eight players and important players are absent that contribute to most of the team’s winning, you might as well just postpone the game,” lifelong Philadelphia sports fan and sophomore sound recording major at Montgomery County College, Zack Rippen, said. “But all in all I feel like the league has done well and haven’t completely dropped the ball yet, as I see games are still up and running every night.”
The Philadelphia 76ers were hit hard earlier in January when they were forced to play a few games with only eight players which slowed them down after opening the season 7-1. Two of their most important players in Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris were absent, as well as a good amount of the roster’s normal rotation. This was something fans didn’t want to hear as they had to go up against a fully healthy Denver Nuggets team Situations like these pose the question that asks if the NBA truly has the right idea about what justifies postponing a game and what doesn’t, while these situations continue to seem inevitable and get mixed emotions from fans.
The NBA laid out all of these rules to ensure as much health and safety as they can, considering that this season like every other season, is going to consist of a lot of travel regarding every single team that has to travel to away games frequently. Teams will be limited to 45 people in a traveling party, including 17 players and the rest being coaches, trainers and various staff. While on the road for away games, players, coaches and staff are permitted to dine outside their hotels if the restaurants provide outdoor dining, have fully privatized indoor rooms, or have met requirements to be formally approved by the league and the players’ union. The NBA and NBPA are currently working to establish a list of at least three approved restaurants in each market.
“I know it’s probably hard for a lot of the players to adapt to, but when you’re feeling stuck in these hotels, having some sort of a support system behind you and motivation for your team’s goals this season can help these guys make it through,” sophomore Cabrini basketball player and communication major Maurice Henry said. “As these guys find those things, and these arenas start to not be so lenient with fans attending the game just yet, then we’re heading into the right direction.”
As far it goes for the team’s home markets, team personnel will be prohibited from going to clubs, bars, or lounges, from attending live entertainment or sports events, from using gyms, spas or pools, or from participating in social gatherings that exceed 15 people.
NBA superstars like James Harden and Kyrie Irving are examples of players that NBA fans enjoy watching and had to go through a series of tests in order to play, after the league got notice that they were in a place where many people did not wear a mask. Examples like these show that the league is really trying to be on top of things and are not willing to take any chances, with how some players have gotten sick after contracting the virus such as Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler when he lost 13 pounds and missed a stretch of games while battling the virus.
As fewer games are getting postponed and more players are beginning to adapt to how the season is operating, while keeping in mind that they have a chance to go far with their team and improve in the game that’s essentially their life, the league isn’t having as much trouble keeping things under control as they did during the beginning of the season.
It’s been a season full of moments such as the league and game security getting upset at NBA all-star Bam Adebayo and Kyrie Irving for attempting the currently trendy jersey swap after their matchup weeks ago, and Spurs’ forward, Rudy Gay, and Rockets’ center, Demarcus Cousin, jokingly greeted each other by touching feet, to mock the strict rules saying what players can and can’t do. It’s going to be interesting to see how the NBA deals with these issues regarding COVID-19, and there’s always that initial feeling of hope when this association deals with major problems, judging by their past execution of groundbreaking ideas.