NBA, players agree to additional protocols through the holidays

The NBA and its players have agreed to strengthen health and safety protocols through the holiday season in response to rising virus numbers, with additional testing coming and a return to face masks. mask in many situations.

The upgraded mask regulations will apply “until further agreement is reached by the Players Association and the NBA,” according to a memo shared with teams Thursday night and obtained by the Associated Press. Okay. Masks need to be worn again in almost all circumstances during team activities – including while traveling, when sitting on the bench during games, in meetings and in the locker room and practice room. and gym.

Exceptions: during on-court basketball activities for players and for the head coach during the game.

The league said testing will be increased from December 26 to January 8. The league also told teams that more requests and recommendations will be made over the next few days, “to help reduce the risk spread of COVID-19 in a team environment.”

The memo was released the same day as Russell Westbrook joined health and safety protocols, joining Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brooklyn’s James Harden as the former league’s MVP is currently disqualified due to concerns about coronavirus.

Westbrook played 42 minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night in their extra-time win in Dallas. The Lakers said he will not be playing Friday night in Minnesota, along with four other players because of virus problems and two more because of injury. However, ESPN reported that one of the five Lakers players in the protocols – Malik Monk – tested Thursday night, which will qualify him for Friday’s competition.

If allowed by the NBA to sign reinforcements and temporarily exceed the roster size limit, the Lakers have plans to sign former All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas on Friday, according to an insider. direct knowledge of the negotiations. . The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the federation is pending approval.

As of Thursday night, there were at least 39 players – about 8% of the league’s total player roster – from at least 13 different teams known to the league’s protocols. Chicago has eight senior league players known in the protocol, one more than Brooklyn one player. Both Harden and Antetokounmpo joined the protocol earlier this week.

Coach Wes Unseld Jr. of Washington, told reporters in Phoenix before the Wizards’ game there on Thursday, said the increase in numbers – in the NBA, other leagues and nationally – was “a big concern.”

“The protocols are in place,” said Unseld. “We’ve been experimenting for a while with the cases we’ve encountered. It’s not unusual. It’s not unique to our team. Obviously, look around the league landscape. and this country; there’s been a significant increase in cases. Woodworking, the severity of those cases and the hospitalization rate doesn’t seem so dramatic. But it’s still very real.”

Thomas scored 42 points for Grand Rapids in a League G game Wednesday night and recently appeared in two games for American Basketball at World Cup qualifying matches in Mexico. He had a brief stint in the NBA last season, averaging 7.7 points in three games against New Orleans.

If that happens, it will be his second time playing for the Lakers. He appeared in 17 games against them during the 2017-18 season.

“For me personally, the ultimate goal is to return to the NBA,” said Thomas, who averaged 29 points for the Boston Celtics during the 2016-17 season and has spent a considerable amount of time battling injury. since last month. “But I just love playing basketball. I love competing and I love playing against the best players in the world.”

There was a bit of good news on Thursday when the Bulls revealed that two of their 10 players who joined the protocols have since been cleared to return.

The Bulls have had two games this week postponed because of a lack of players. They are now expected to return to play Sunday at home with the Lakers.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said: “We’ve been really affected by all of this and we’ve lost a lot of players. “Other teams may be affected a bit, but not by much.”

The NBA had 430 games played on Thursday, or 35% of the season. This week’s two Bulls games were the only ones postponed due to virus concerns.

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