Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Wednesday the NBA team was going ahead with plans to open its training facility Friday so players could individually work out.
The team has been in contact with local and Ohio health officials to make sure it is following safety guidelines, Bickerstaff said. Its year-round facility in Independence, Ohio, has been closed since mid March.
Bickerstaff, who took over the Cavaliers when John Beilein stepped down in February midway through his first season, said the workouts are voluntary and “no one is being pressured to do anything.” The league has advised that any player and coach remain 12 feet apart while on the floor together, and coaches will be required to wear masks and gloves, among the rules put in place, he said.
The NBA has said some players can voluntarily return to their team practice facilities starting Friday under very specific conditions and only in places where local and state governments have signed off on such openings.
The Miami Heat are allowed to open their doors for the first time in six weeks but won’t until at least Monday while they work out logistical details. The Orlando Magic aren’t going to welcome players back immediately, either. Same goes for the Utah Jazz, the first major pro sports team to deal with the coronavirus after center Rudy Gobert tested positive March 11 and the league shut down almost immediately.
“The biggest goal is to have the confidence of the players and the staff that they can enter the facility safely,” Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey said.
Most teams aren’t allowed to open yet to because of local rules.
Games are not close to being played.
Perhaps mindful of challenges other leagues have faced in their efforts to resume play amid a coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the sports world, the NBA seems to be moving with extreme caution.
Simultaneously, everybody wants to play, and everybody wonders if it’s safe to play. It’s like all parties involved know that a major misstep now could doom any realistic chance of playing any time in the next few months.
“Our task force at the league is studying how do we get back to playing basketball again, following the data, looking at every possible model,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said this week while addressing an Orlando-area economic forum.
And opening the practice courts is only Phase 1.
Getting players back into facilities is not a precursor to games being played, it’s more about keeping them out of public gyms and playgrounds that are starting to reopen. Positive tests during individual training or practices could delay or destroy plans for games.
The NBA is working toward a plan to test players if the season resumes. It has exchanged data with leagues across the world.
“There’s been this unprecedented collaboration and communication among scientists across the world right now,” said Dr. John DiFiori, the NBA’s director of sports medicine. “What’s going on, sports medicine sort of parallels that at a much different level, of course. But there is an awful lot of that going on across the world right now. It’s at least daily communication in one way, shape or another with colleagues across the world in all these different leagues because we’re all learning from each other.”
The rules that NBA teams will have to adhere to when they resume even the voluntary workouts are like none previously put in place. Also among them: a 12-feet buffer between everyone, one player per basket, one ball per basket, no more than four players in the facility at once. Everyone must wear masks and gloves, the lone exception being players while they work out. Every player must undergo cardiac screening before resuming voluntary workouts.
Spalding, which makes NBA basketballs, has even developed a plan that has been sent to teams for how to clean the balls after workouts: wipe them down with a solution made from a quarter-teaspoon of dish soap like Dawn mixed with a gallon of water, then further wipe them down with just water, allow them to air dry, then spray the balls with a disinfectant.
“We’re all analyzing information and talking through what-ifs and trying to learn little details that could make a difference,” DiFiori said. “It’s literally a constant, daily process.”
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