Numerous NBA teams have depleted rosters due to COVID-19 contact tracing, and it’s not just taking a physical toll on Miami, Heat big man Kelly Olynyk stressed the mental aspect of playing under the league’s newly implemented guidelines. The 29-year-old power forward said he’d prefer living in the bubble that traveling under these rules.
On January 21, Olynyk abiding by NBA’s strict protocols on the road is no easy feat, “The 30 steps from the bus to the arena is like the highlight of your day now,” Olynyk said, as reported by the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman.
Olynyk has become one of the Heat’s most reliable starters while many of the team’s players remain out due to COVID-19 contact tracing. During the 2020-2021 season, he’s started eight of 12 games while power forward Udonis Haslem is sidelined due to coronavirus health and safety protocols.
Coronavirus has given Olynyk, who bypassed free agency to exercise his $12.6 million player option for the 2020-2021 season with the Heat, the chance to step into spotlight. Prior to this season, Olynyk only started 103 of 500 games throughout his career, Canadian Sports Scene reported.
Olynyk went from starting 20.6% of his team’s game to starting 67% of their matchups. Thus far, he’s making the most of his minutes averaging career-highs in points per game with 11.3, assists per game (three), and blocks per game (0.9).
Coach Spo Insinuated that NBA’s COVID-19 Protocols is the Source of Herro’s Lingering Neck Injury
The Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra staunchly supports the league’s health and safety protocols when they were first implemented, on January 21, he couldn’t help but point out one of the pitfalls.
Heat star Tyler Herro was believed to only miss a game or two after suffering from neck spasms, however, being forced to play when the team only has the minimum amount of players required means his players are playing way more minutes than previously expected.
“There’s no telling for sure if this is why Tyler missed these games,” Spoelstra said. “But it definitely didn’t help that he had to play and play that many minutes. We didn’t have anybody else at that point. If he didn’t play, then we would have had seven.”
After missing three consecutive games, Herro remains questionable for Friday’s rematch against the Toronto Raptors.
What Players Can & Cannot Do Under the League’s New Health Guidelines
In order to prevent further widespread issues, the league announced on January 12 a new set of much stricter healthy and safety guidelines.
After the NBA met with the Board of Governors on Tuesday, they released a new set of rules in hopes they can continue to move forward without coronavirus forcing the league into an extended break.
Under the new guidelines, players are prohibited from entering the arena more than three hours before tipoff, and “must always wear facemasks in the locker room, during strength and conditioning activities and when traveling with anyone other than a household member, according to the new rules obtained by AP. And yes, the NBPA signed off on all of these,” Associated Press reporter Tim Reynolds tweeted.
Post-game, there will be no high-fives or hugs. Shams Charania tweeted, “NBA players are now only allowed to elbow or fist bump when socializing pre-and post-game and maintain six feet of distance.”
For the next two weeks, any pre-game locker meeting must be limited to 10 minutes or less, and everyone must wear a face mask. Between games, players are no longer allowed to dine out at previously league-approved restaurants.