The NBA returns tonight after a brief two-month offseason. Steph Curry and company will take on former Warrior Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, followed by a matchup between the defending champion Lakers and cross-town rival Clippers. The rest of the league tips-off tomorrow, beginning what should be an exciting season. There are several significant storylines heading into the season, but perhaps the most intriguing is how the NBA will handle bubble-less basketball. The Association was one of the leaders in suspending activities. The country saw a rise in cases and led the way in a return to normalcy by implementing the bubble experiment to resume the ’19-’20 season. Other professional sports followed suit, some with minimal roadblocks like the NHL and MLB, others with a more strenuous path like the NFL and NCAA. While COVID cases continue to rise, the hope of a vaccine is now a reality, and while we are far from the normalcy we dream of, arena basketball is at least back. At the beginning of the month, the NBA released guidelines for COVID protocol, which includes the following:
The occurrence of independent cases (not spread among players or staff), or a small or “expected number” of COVID-19 instances will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the season.
Anyone who tests positive will have two routes to return to work: go 10 days or more after the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing.
Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, will not be allowed to exercise for a minimum of 10 days and then must be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days.
There are no criteria mentioned for what might prompt the NBA to suspend the season.
Team traveling parties will be limited to 45 people, including 17 players, as they make their way around the country to play a home-and-road schedule in NBA arenas
(via nba.com) There was also a note that once a vaccine is available, there will be a negotiation between the league and the NBAPA, as to whether or not players, coaches, and staff will be required to receive it. A return to basketball is a positive that we all undoubtedly need in our lives as we continue to battle this pandemic. And while nothing is for certain these days, one thing we all know is that fans will watch and cheer in unison as the NBA takes on playing basketball in a COVID-19 world for the second time this year.