The NBA continues to take steps towards a resumption of the 2019-20 season that was halted by the coronavirus, with the NBPA’s tentative approval of the league’s proposal to re-start the campaign at Disney World the latest forward movement in the process.
On their conference call to vote to move forward in negotiations, the players’ union representatives also got word on some of the protocols and restrictions the NBA wants to put in place when the season resumes. They were almost immediately leaked to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who published them in a story.
Let’s break them down, with a few thoughts on each:
– A plan to play 2-to-3 exhibition games before regular season
This is a bit of a surprise, and leaves the NBA — already facing a deceptively tight window before resuming the season, as we broke down yesterday — with even less time to get these details set in stone at the negotiating table with the union.
On one hand, this is a win for the players: A few exhibition games will give them more time to get ready to get back into game shape and used to playing again in a low-stakes environment, allowing them to (in theory) further mitigate the risk of injuries due to a long layoff.
However, those games also would potentially extend their time in Orlando without their families (more on that in a second) and potentially shorten the window before next season (a window it seems the NBPA is still intent on renegotiating, as Charania wrote that “the NBPA told players 2020-21 season starting on Dec. 1 is ‘unlikely’ and plans to negotiate the date”).
There is also the matter of the family restrictions, which Charania reports will include:
– 1,600 maximum people on campus
– Players and family must stay inside the bubble; families can enter after the first round
He and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN expanded a bit on Twitter:
Sources: Family limit for NBA players in Orlando: Three people, with some exceptions.https://t.co/OiSdQosgvU— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 5, 2020
The NBPA player leadership was informed of a plan to keep 1,600 people in Orlando bubble at any given time, sources tell ESPN. Player families will be allowed to arrive after first-round of playoffs — likely three members at a time.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 5, 2020
For those visiting Disney World this summer and hoping to see an active NBA player roaming the parks and getting on rides, well, the NBPA made it clear that won't be happening for players, nor the family members joining them, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 5, 2020
First of all, the Lopez twins are going to riot over that last bit, but let’s also unpack the rest of this.
Three family members at a time is a little different than three total, and does potentially allow for players to avoid choosing their favorite children and/or parents and siblings, so they’ll probably appreciate that.
Still, this might be another potential snag, or at least haggling point at the bargaining table, too. Yes, NBA players travel for work all the time, but going until (potentially) the second round without getting to see their significant others, kids or families may be something they aren’t all right with, especially if they aren’t allowed to leave the “bubble,” as the NBA is now proposing after some earlier indicators that the restrictions wouldn’t be so tight:
Further agreements are needed, in other words, for NBPA approval of the league's plan to insist that players stay within the confines of the NBA campus at Disney World and that family members do not arrive until the second round of the playoffs when half the teams have gone home— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 5, 2020
It was always going to be the details team player reps started hearing today about the restrictions of "campus" environment that would mean far more to them than the how-many-teams debate ...— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 5, 2020
One of the key points from this week's @nytimes NBA newsletter: https://t.co/xvnmpqS0bC
Just like with the Coaches Association and possible restrictions on members over the age of 65, this may be something the league and the unions in question have to argue over a bit, and with only around two months to finalize the agreements, bring everyone back, quarantine them, have a training camp, head to Orlando, quarantine everyone again, and start playing games on July 31, the window for all these parties to come to a consensus on these important issues is a little narrower than one might think.
And speaking of the coronavirus — you know, the pandemic that’s still going on and forced the NBA to shut down the season the first time — Charania provided some details on the league’s health protocols for that (beyond just the stricter-than-expected bubble), too:
– Coronavirus testing every day; minimum seven days of quarantine for a player who tests positive
– If a player contracts the virus, the NBA says they plan to continue playing
– NBPA will conduct coronavirus testing every night, likely mouth swabs/light nasal swabs and not the full invasive nasal swab
– Minimum seven days quarantine for a player if positive.
Players had previously expressed antipathy towards the full, invasive nasal swabs, so this is another win right off the bat for the union. Solidarity!
A minimum of seven days of quarantine if a player is positive seems a little light considering that most recommendations from health experts have been a two week quarantine period, but that is just a minimum — and will seemingly be coupled with extensive testing — so it’s probably not something to worry over just yet.
And for the players who don’t test positive and actually are the ones playing out the season, we got a few more details on the conditions they’ll be playing under:
– There could be crowd noise via NBA 2K video game sounds, but the NBA and NBPA is still discussing creative opportunities
– There is an expected three-hour practice window for teams, with two courts and weight rooms in the convention center
Okay, first of all, as far as the 2K sounds goes: boooooooooooooooo. I never actually expected the players or league to be willing to let us hear what the players said on the floor, but this still sucks to confirm. Even so, that’s likely still another win for the players’ union (just not for the fans). Maybe one of the creative opportunities can be uncensored player audio on pay-per-view?
The three-hour practice window sounds about sufficient, considering how much teams actually practice (or don’t practice, more accurately) in-season due to trying to keep players healthy for games.
Charania also reported three other rules of note:
– Players are expected to return to full paychecks this summer, after taking a 25 percent reduction in May
– There is a proposed 35-person travel party limit
The NBPA also informed players that they will not be blood tested while in Orlando to resume the season — such as for materials that fall in the anti-drug policy.
That last part is great news for Danny Green and Alex Caruso, who can dunk and post all the swole pictures they want, respectively, without fear of getting drug tested. Also, congrats to Dion Waiters, for no particular reason.
But on a serious note, the players’ pay percentage not getting sliced was sort of expected, but also good to confirm, and likely a big factor in why this was approved so much more quickly than the MLB’s own negotiations to start the season. The players getting their full cut is the fairest way to do this, and it’s good that the NBA didn’t try to use a pandemic as justification to take money away from the people that make the actual product.
As far as the travel party limit goes, that may get a bit tight. Teams have 15-player rosters already (17 if they get to bring their two-way contract players), and while coaching staffs vary in size around the league, the Lakers have 10 members of theirs. Their training staff includes nine people. That’s 34-36 people already, and that’s without including their broadcasters (potentially necessary for the games televised by Spectrum SportsNet if they aren’t working remotely), media relations staff or anyone else. Cuts will have to come from somewhere, and we’ll see how various factions react when finding out who is really essential, and whose services aren’t considered as vital by their team.
Obviously there is a lot of forward momentum on the season resuming at this point, enough to where it seems to be an inevitability. But while we know a lot more than we did about the NBA’s plan than we did two days ago, as you can see, there is still a lot to be ironed out. Stay tuned for more updates as those negotiations continue to take place. I’m just disappointed they didn’t take any of my suggestions.