For the first time since the NBA was shut down due to coronavirus, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to allow their players and player development coaches to start conducting individual workouts at their practice facility within the next week, and before they do so, they’ve gotten an important piece of approval from the league.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers are one of a few teams that’s been given special permission from the league to test players and staffers entering the facility for coronavirus, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms:
In municipalities where coronavirus testing has become readily available to at-risk health care workers, NBA teams opening facilities for voluntary workouts will be allowed to administer tests to asymptomatic players and staff, sources told ESPN.
As team facilities reopen in the coming days and weeks, organizations such as the Orlando Magic, LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be among the teams allowed to conduct coronavirus tests of every player and staff member entering facilities for individual workouts — regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms, sources said.
This is a big deal, because as you might remember, the Lakers received plenty of criticism when they tested their entire team for coronavirus in the wake of the Brooklyn Nets — their last opponent before play stopped — having four players test positive. At the time, testing was extremely sparse, and the league as a whole was criticized for skipping the line, with New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio among the loudest voices to do so:
We wish them a speedy recovery. But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 17, 2020
Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick. https://t.co/7uQlL3zc7Z
It should be noted, it is easier to get a test now than it was then, and especially in Los Angeles, which has recently begun to allow anyone to get tested for free, regardless of if they are showing symptoms or not. In that sense, the Lakers are technically being treated exactly the same as the rest of the city, although one would imagine they would likely have an easier time getting an appointment and not have to wait as long. Still, while that makes this more convenient for them, it also isn’t the same type of skipping the line they did a few months ago, when it was essentially impossible to get tested anywhere in the U.S.
It seems there is still a long way to go before the country as a whole can safely re-open, but it does appear from the tenor of most of the reporting this week that the NBA is pressing forward, even if it doesn’t want to be the first league to re-start. With this type of testing in place, it at least looks like the league will be able to move forward a little bit more safely than it previously appeared, and if they can keep securing more tests without taking them away from the people who need them most, a return may be closer on the horizon than we thought.