The Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team and the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team, is seen nearly empty, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Philadelphia. (Photo: AP)
The NBA has told its teams to close its training and practice facilities to all players and staff starting Friday, saying the shuttering will last indefinitely in the latest response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The league told teams of the new directive in a memo sent Thursday afternoon, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. As recently as Monday, the NBA was telling teams that individual workouts could take place using what the league called the “one player, one coach, one basket” rule.
Now, that’s not even permitted. If players are going to work out during the league’s shutdown, they’ll have to do it at home or some other private facility.
The NBA said it was updating the guidelines “in light of the rapidly-developing coronavirus situation, and consistent with evolving advice from health experts regarding how to promote individual and public health while minimizing the spread of the virus.” It further recommended that players “should take aggressive measures to avoid contact with others and remain home as much as possible, leaving only for essential activities.”
The league described those activities as “buying food, medicine, or other necessary supplies; obtaining critical medical services; providing necessary care for a family member in another household; or attending to some other emergency.”
Entering Thursday, the NBA had seven players — four from the Brooklyn Nets, two from the Utah Jazz and one from the Detroit Pistons — known to have tested positive for COVID-19.
Later Thursday, the number of known cases within the NBA rose to 11 after the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers reported positive tests. The Nuggets had one person with the virus but did not say if the person was a player, coach or another level of staffer.
And the 76ers said three members of their organization tested positive for the virus. The team also didn’t specify who they were. The group tested included players, coaches and specific basketball operations support staff.
The team said it secured tests privately.
“Pursuant to CDC guidelines, the individuals are in self-isolation and will be monitored closely by medical professionals,” the 76ers said.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN on Wednesday that eight teams have been tested; not all of those teams have publicly acknowledged testing, so it is possible that the number of positives among NBA players could be higher.
With the belief that there are going to be no NBA games for several more weeks, at minimum, the league clearly felt Thursday was the right time to take the additional step of urging players to limit exposure.
“Consistent with an increasing number of state and local government restrictions, and an emerging consensus regarding how to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus with which the NBA’s infectious disease and public health experts agree, effective tomorrow and until further notice, team practice or training facilities ... will be closed to players and staff,” the NBA wrote. The league said the ban applies to G League facilities as well.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
The NBA previously banned teams, as part of the coronavirus response, from using public health clubs, fitness centers, gyms and college facilities. But the league said Thursday that teams are permitted to set players up with training, conditioning, or other instructional materials for use at their homes.
Some players have been doing individual workouts at team facilities, on the court or in the weight rooms. Others have gotten creative. Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat recently posted images of a morning workout at his home, and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers said he’s finding different ways to keep in some short of shape.
“I’m incredibly blessed to just have some free weights here. I have a versa climber. I have enough stuff that I won’t take a step back,” Love said Thursday. “I’ll make sure that I’m maintaining and hopefully keep my wind up and stay strong and just keep that constant tension on my body because it’s tough right now. I haven’t really left the house much.”
The league also reminded teams Thursday that it recommends players remain in their team markets and avoid all non-essential travel, though players -- in concert with their team -- can choose to go to another city and stay there instead. But players still cannot travel outside of North America; one of the reasons for that is logistical, since it is unclear if players who hypothetically want to return to homes in Europe would be allowed to fly back to the U.S.
Thursday was the eighth full day of the NBA’s shutdown because of the virus. That brings the total of games missed to 57, including the two called off on March 11 — the night that the positive test of Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert was revealed and the league announced that it was suspending the season.
“We will navigate these uncharted waters together,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder wrote in an open letter to Utah fans on Thursday, thanking them for their support. “Right now, we are all sacrificing in our own unique ways — for our health and for the greater good — and that is critical.”