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NBA imposes quasi-lockdown in attempt to save its season

New safety protocols severely limit travel, meetings, up mask use, testing

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With an increase in COVID-positive tests and players and coaches in isolation, and a series of recent game postponements, the NBA is imposing stricter health and safety policies in an effort to save its season.

The new rules will be in place for at least the next two weeks, according to the league, and limit travel, on-court contact, team meetings, while expanding mask use and testing protocols.

Somehow, the Detroit Pistons have avoided any positive cases and have not had to put any players in preventative isolation. That could be because they haven’t played any of the teams who seem to be a source of the further spread throughout the league.

To make matters worse, there is an increasing number of players who have tested positive for a second time, according to ESPN.

The league broke down the new rules into six areas — activities outside the team environment, meetings, on the road, game day, face masks and testing.

It’s not surprising to see a surge in the NBA just as we are seeing a surge across the country. This is especially true after the holidays, and the league is desperate to get things under control.

Will these interventions work? I am skeptical, and I feel like a pause leagu-wide of several weeks might be in the offing pretty soon. If that happens, it will be interesting to see if the league expands the league calendar or simply lops off some of the already abbreviated 62-game schedule.

Let’s dig into the actual policies the league announced in more detail.

Activities Outside the Team Environment

Players and staff are required to remain in their primary residence except for team-related activities, outdoor exercise, or to perform essential activities. They are also not to interact with anyone who is not a member of or working in their household or a family member. On the road, players and staff are not to leave their hotel or have any interaction with non-team guests.


Pregame meetings in the locker room will be limited to 10 minutes and a face mask is required. All other meetings must occur on the court, in a league-approved space, or at the arena or a room large enough to allow six feet of social distancing.

On the Road

Seating assignments will cluster players together similar to how they are seated on the NBA bench. Treatments such as massage and physical therapy must occur in large open spaces with at least 12 feet between each station. Face masks and face shields are required.

Game Day

Players cannot arrive more than three hours before tip off. In pre- and post-game, players may only elbow or fist bump each other, avoid extended socializing and maintain six feet of social distancing as much as possible.

Face Masks

Face masks are required on the bench at all times. There will be “cool down chairs” at least 12 feet from the bench where face masks are not required. Face masks are required at all times in the locker room, during strength and conditioning activities and when traveling. Coaches and staff must wear a mask at all times during games.


Anyone who regularly visits a player or staff member’s home for a professional purpose must undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week. For any team that has a confirmed positive player case or high-risk staff member case, the NBA could require five consecutive days of twice-per-day, lab-based testing in addition to daily point-of-care testing.