South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Break COVID rules and pay the price

Teams could lose picks, games for not complying to protocols

- By Tim Reynolds

NBA teams that do not comply with league rules designed to minimize the spread of the coronaviru­s this season could face major penalties such as forfeiting games or draft picks, the league told its franchises Saturday.

The league also said that it and the National Basketball Players Associatio­n willdiscus­s players, coaches andother staff “being required to receive a coronaviru­s vaccine” when it becomes available, strongly urged teams to encourage players and personnel to get flu shots, and said that effective immediatel­y Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel — which basically means players, coaches and some essential staff — must avoid bars, lounges, clubs even if food is served, most live entertainm­ent or gaming venues, public gyms, spas and pool areas.

Also off-limits: indoor gatherings of 15 or more people. Those rules apply both when teams are at home and when they are on the road, the NBA said. Preseason games start Friday and the regular season begins Dec. 22.

The protocols document, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, has muchmore detail than the draft version that was distribute­d to teams last weekend. The rules and protocols in the updated document— which even includes examples of how seating charts on planes and buses could be set up — have been agreed upon by theNBA and the NBPA.

“The biggest thing is obviously, from what we’ve been told, is the testing on the daily,” Philadelph­ia forward Tobias Harris said earlier in the week as the protocols were being finalized. “And guys holding each other accountabl­e to be safe and limit exposure fromoutsid­e people or whatever. For me, it’s a bit confusing because you never know. You could go into a grocery store and you may get the virus somehow, right? So, I think it’s a fine line, but I think we have to do our best to follow protocol, keep each other safe, keep the team safe and just see howit plays out.”

Starting Sunday, the testing program — players and coaches will be checked daily, and 48 players were found to be positive before training camps even began — will begin to include immediate families, if they so desire. Teamshave been toldby theNBA to work with BioReferen­ce, the league’s testing provider, to make voluntary PCR testing available for all household members of Tier 1 and Tier 2 individual­s twice a week. The household members of those Tier 1 and Tier 2 individual­s are also being urged to get flu shots.

“We’re just trying to follow the guidelines, do it as best we can,“Golden State coach Steve Kerr said earlier in the week. “It’s not easy, but everybody’s got to go through it. We’re just trying to navigate our way through it.“

The league made clear in the final protocols that if teams don’t take the health and safety rules seriously, a serious price will be paid.

As written in the new rules: “Protocol violations that result in COVID-19 spread that requires adjustment­s to theNBAgame schedule or otherwise impacts any other team may subject the violating team to additional penalties, which may include fines, suspension­s, adjustment or loss of draft choices, and/or game forfeiture.”

The NFL has fined teams and coaches for not wearing masks and following protocols; just in the last week, the New England Patriots were fined $350,000 for violations and the New Orleans Saints were fined $500,000 plus had a seventhrou­nd pick taken away following a locker room celebratio­n in which they were not wearing masks. One key addition to the final version of the NBA protocols: Teams, when they go on the road, will have some freedoms and will not be forced to stay in their hotels when not practicing or playing.

 ?? STACY REVERE/TNS ?? NBA Commission­er Adam Silver speaks to the media on Feb. 15 in Chicago.
STACY REVERE/TNS NBA Commission­er Adam Silver speaks to the media on Feb. 15 in Chicago.

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