Just a few weeks into the NBA’s 2020-2021 season, COVID-19 is already proving to be an unignorable issue forcing multiple games to be postponed. 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.”
On road, players and staff can’t leave hotel — except for team activities or emergencies, sources tell ESPN. No more list of approved restaurants. https://t.co/fU7QnElnBq
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
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.
Miami Heat Enters Tuesday Night’s Game With a Depleted Roster Due to COVID-19
Before the Miami Heat embarked on their four-game road trip, they didn’t have any players unable to play due to health and safety protocols stemming from COVID-19. Now, after just one road game in Washington D.C., they only have a shell of their roster still eligible to play.
While the Heat nabbed a win for their first away game against the Wizards, they were forced to postpone Sunday’s tilt against Boston Celtics, and now will be forced to move forward to play the 76ers in Philadelphia with a depleted roster.
On January 11, the Heat announced that eight players will be ruled out for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia, including more than a few starters:
Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Avery Bradley, Goran Dragic, Moe Harkless, Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Nunn, and KZ Okpala traveled back to Miami on Monday to start quarantine due to COVID-19 contact tracing, Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman tweeted.
In addition, Meyers Leonard (shoulder strain) questionable for tomorrow's game. Kelly Olynyk (groin contusion) and Gabe Vincent (right knee soreness) probable. Heat needs two of these three injured players to reach NBA-minimum of 8 available players vs. 76ers. https://t.co/5qIzmMo3yc
— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) January 11, 2021
The decision to postpone Miami’s game against the Celtics on January 11 came after a Heat player returned an inconclusive test and, with contact tracing, Miami was not able to field a team of eight players, Shams Charania reported. This news was announced after it was already revealed that Miami guard Avery Bradley would be out because of COVID-19-related health and safety protocols.
It’s Not Just the Heat Getting Ravaged By COVID-19
It’s not just the Heat getting hit hard by COVID-19 contact tracing, so are the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks. On Monday, the NBA announced two more games that would have to be postponed. The first game canceled was the Mavericks vs. New Orleans Pelicans, which was scheduled for January 11, as Dallas didn’t have the required eight eligible players, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The other game canceled on Monday was the Celtics match against the Chicago Bulls, which made sense since the bulk of Boston’s roster needed to quarantine after it was revealed that Jayson Tatum had tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday night.
Thus far, the NBA is determined to keep moving forward with taking an extended break. “We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN in a statement. “There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols.”