The NBA has pushed back its original plan to allow players to reenter team facilities for voluntary workouts by a week, until May 8.
The league had been planning to reopen facilities beginning on Friday, including the Atlanta Hawks’ facility in Georgia, which was among the first states to loosen stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Before the NBA’s announcement on Monday, the Hawks had decided to wait until they had a better sense of how the loosening of the stay-at-home measures was impacting the region.
“We are going to wait and see what happens in the state over the couple weeks,” Hawks president of basketball operations and general manager Travis Schlenk told ESPN. “If there’s a positive response, we’ll slowly open up. If it’s a negative response, we’ll make sure our staff and players remain healthy.”
ESPN obtained a 16-page league memo on Monday that detailed to teams the requirements of reopening facilities, including allowing only four players in a facility at one time and having only one staff member supervising. No coaches are to be allowed in the workouts with players, the memo said. A distance of 12 feet must be kept among individuals on the court.
The NBA also told teams that there would be a process put in place to help teams in closed states find options to get back onto the floor on this limited basis, the memo said.
The NBA shared the broad strokes of a May 1 opening in a memo distributed to a limited group of owners on a league subcommittee on Saturday, although most front-office executives were unaware of the league’s plan until an ESPN report later that afternoon. Across Saturday night and Sunday, general managers made calls to the league office and front-office peers to try to get a fuller understanding of the league’s plans.
Among a dozen GMs reached by ESPN, most said they had apprehensions about bringing back players into facilities in regions where politics, not science and medical expertise, seemed to be driving the reopening of businesses.
“There has been a concern that players could start flocking to states that are reopening,” one team president told ESPN on Sunday.
With nearly a third of the league’s teams across several states possibly poised to reopen based upon the loosening of governmental stay-at-home regulations in coming weeks, a significant number of top team executives are privately expressing concerns about the idea. Still, there were several organizations that believed the timing was appropriate to allow players back into a controlled environment under team supervision, where local governments allowed the facilities to open.
Some executives believe that players would inevitably start to move toward unsanctioned use of public gymnasiums, and that could create a greater health concern for players.
Those teams in regions that are unlikely to receive prompt governmental clearance to open their facilities — such as Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Philadelphia — are waiting to hear league plans on how their players could receive similar access to gymnasium use.
Some teams did worry about the competitive advantage of others getting a significant jump on training in the event of the season’s resumption.
Georgia has been the first to open up public gymnasiums — such as 24-Hour Fitness and Equinox clubs — and some team executives on a GM conference call with the league office Thursday shared that they had players asking if they should consider flying to Georgia, sources said. A couple of executives suggested that players had wondered whether they should find a way to get into a gym to play basketball again, including if there was a way to access the Hawks’ team facility itself, sources said.
Players have been prohibited by the NBA from using public gymnasiums or training facilities during the league’s shutdown.
The NBA’s decision to reopen facilities based on the loosening of local governmental policies isn’t considered reflective of a new timetable for a resumption of play this season, sources said. Commissioner Adam Silver and owners still believe they need more time to gain a clearer picture on whether, when or how they could possibly resume the season, sources said.