The NBA and its players have agreed to improve health and safety protocols throughout the holiday season in response to the increase in the number of viruses, with further testing coming and a return to the use of the mask in many situations.
The improved mask rules will be in place “until otherwise agreed by the NBA and the Players’ Association,” according to a note shared with the teams Thursday night and obtained by the Associated Press. Masks should be worn again under almost all circumstances during team activities – including travel, on the bench during games, in meetings and locker rooms, in the weight room and in the training hall.
The exceptions: during basketball activities on the field for players and for head coaches during games.
Tests will be increased from Dec.26 to Jan.8, the league said. The league also told the teams that more requirements and recommendations would be forthcoming in the coming days, “to help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in the team environment.”
The note was released the same day Russell Westbrook entered health and safety protocols, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and James Harden of Brooklyn as the former league MVP currently sidelined by issues. coronavirus.
Westbrook played 42 minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night in their overtime victory in Dallas. The Lakers said he would not play at Minnesota on Friday night, along with four other players due to virus issues and two more due to injuries. ESPN, however, reported that one of the five Lakers in the Protocols – Malik Monk – was tested Thursday night, which would make him eligible to play on Friday.
If the NBA grants them permission to sign reinforcements and temporarily exceed the roster size limit, the Lakers planned to sign former all-star goalkeeper Isaiah Thomas on a difficult 10-day contract on Friday, one person said. having direct knowledge of negotiations. . The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to pending league approval.
As of Thursday night, there were at least 39 players – around 8% of the league’s total roster – from at least 13 different teams known to be in league protocols. Chicago had eight players known to be in Protocols, one more than Brooklyn. Harden and Antetokounmpo both entered protocols earlier this week.
Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr., speaking to reporters in Phoenix ahead of the Wizards game on Thursday, said the increase in numbers – in the NBA, other leagues and around the country – is “a huge concern â.
âProtocols are in place,â Unseld said. âWe’ve been testing for a while now with the cases we’ve had. It’s not unusual. It’s not unique to our team. Obviously look around the league landscape and this country; there has been A dramatic increase in the number of cases. Letâs know, the severity of these cases and the rate of hospitalizations does not seem so dramatic. But itâs still very real. “
Thomas scored 42 points for Grand Rapids in a G League game on Wednesday night and recently appeared in two games for USA Basketball in the World Cup qualifiers in Mexico. He was briefly in the NBA last season, averaging 7.7 points in three games with New Orleans.
If that happens, it will be his second stint with the Lakers. He appeared in 17 games with them during the 2017-18 season.
âFor me, personally, the ultimate goal is to get back into the NBA,â said Thomas, who averaged 29 points for the Boston Celtics in 2016-17 and has spent a lot of time fighting injuries since. last month. âBut I love to play basketball. … I love competition and I love playing against the best players in the world.
There was good news on Thursday when the Bulls revealed that two of their 10 players who entered protocols have since been allowed to return.
The Bulls have postponed two games this week due to a shortage of players. For now, they are expected to return to play Sunday at home against the Lakers.
“We’ve been hit very hard by all of this and we’ve lost a lot of players,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Thursday. âOther teams may have been affected a bit, but not as much. “
The NBA had up to 430 games played Thursday, or 35% of the season. The Bulls’ two games this week are the only ones postponed due to virus concerns.
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