The league has distributed to teams a health-and-safety protocol guide for the 2020-21 NBA season, outlining procedures for how it will deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daily testing began this weekend in advance of training camps opening next week. Individual workouts through Monday will be voluntary, followed by required individual workouts Tuesday through Saturday, with required group workouts scheduled for Dec. 6-10.
Among other key provisions in the document:
• Occurrence of independent cases (not spread among players or staff), or a small or "expected number" of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the season.
• Anyone who tests positive will have two routes to return to work: go 10 days or more after the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing.
• Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, must wait 10 days and then be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days.
• There are no criteria mentioned for what might prompt the NBA to suspend the season.
• Team traveling parties will be limited to 45 people, including 17 players, as they make their way around the country to play a home-and-road schedule in NBA arenas.
• As in the Orlando bubble, an anonymous tip line will be made available to report possible violations of safety protocols.
The NBA will establish an anonymous hotline to report potential violations of safety protocols during in-market play in 2020-21 season, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. There was also a hotline for the Orlando restart.- Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 28, 2020
A preseason schedule with a total of 49 games (two to four per team) from Dec. 11-19 was announced Friday. The NBA has planned for a 72-game regular season that begins on Dec. 22 and ends in mid-May, with the 2021 Finals being completed in July.
MORE: NBA's 2020-21 preseason schedule
The 2019-20 season was interrupted by a virus shutdown that lasted from March 11 to July 30. Play resumed with 22 of the 30 teams participating in eight seeding games, after which a play-in format and the traditional 16-team playoff bracket was completed.
All games and activities of the restart were staged in a "bubble" on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus outside Orlando. The ambitious and costly (approximately $180 million) project saved the league an estimated $1.5 billion in additional revenue losses and enabled the Los Angeles Lakers to be crowned as 2020 champions on Oct. 11.
The NBA was lauded for successfully navigating the coronavirus challenges, many of them unknowns, to completion. Now it will tackle a more conventional, non-bubble approach and face - and ideally learn from - some of the issues dealt with by the NFL, the NHL and major league baseball.
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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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