The NBA appears to be doing whatever it can to implement stricter COVID protocols without pausing the season.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the league and players’ association are working through a minimum two-week window to tighten COVID restrictions, which includes prohibiting hugging or interaction of rival players on court pre- and post-game as well as reducing social interactions during games, including tapping hands during free throws.
There will also be more enforcement of mask-wearing for coaches and players on the bench -- which now must be worn at all times, including in the locker room . Players will not be allowed interact with non-team guests at road hotels, nor will they be allowed to leave the hotel with the exception of team activities or emergencies.
Teams who are home, on the other hand, must remain at residence with the exception of attending team-related activities at team facility or arena, outside exercise, essential activities or occurrence of extraordinary circumstances, per Wojnarowski.
This news comes as the NBA has dealt with multiple postponements in recent days, including the Celtics-Magic game scheduled for Wednesday – marking the third game within a four-day period that the Celtics will not be able to play because they do not have the minimum eight players available.
The Celtics are not the only team dealing with COVID issues. The Mavericks-Pelicans game on Monday was postponed and Boston’s game Sunday against the Heat was actually postponed because Miami did not have enough players due to COVID protocols.
On Sunday, multiple reports stated the league was not planning to pause the season despite the spike in COVID cases – which has some concerned for their own safety, which Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy pointed out.
While the tighter restrictions the NBA plans to implement cuts down on physical contact, the sport itself is a contact sport in which players will be in direct contact with one another for the duration of a game.
The NFL attempted to make similar efforts throughout the season, which was mocked by some players such as Aaron Rodgers, who referred to some of the restrictions as a “double standard.”