2020 NBA return: What to know about NBA's health protocols and player handbook

Paul Hudrick
NBC Sports Philadelphia

The NBA on Tuesday put out a memo on health and safety protocols as well as a player handbook for when the league attempts to resume its season.

The agreed upon format will feature 22 teams and will be played at Disney World in Florida. The league hopes to start playing its eight seeding games by the end of July.

Here's an overview of some of the key points and possible concerns from the memo and handbook, which were obtained by NBC Sports:

Safety and testing

With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, safety and testing measures will be highly scrutinized. That's why the NBA's memo on the subject is 113 pages long.

From June 23-30, all players that are choosing to play will have reported to their teams and will start being tested. By July 7, teams will begin traveling to Orlando. By July 9, training camps will begin with teams playing in multiple "scrimmages" to get ready for the seeding games.

When players and staff arrive, they'll have to quarantine for 36 hours and test negative twice in tests that will be at least 24 hours apart. Players and coaches will be subject to "regular" testing, though the memo does not provide specifics. Face coverings will be required outside of when players are eating, in their hotel rooms, when they're outside or when doing athletic activities. When not playing, players and staff are required to practice social distancing.

If a player does test positive, the league will not necessarily shut down. That player will be forced to quarantine in "Isolation Housing" separate from where team personnel are staying. The player will be retested to be sure the result wasn't a false positive.

According to the memo, there will not be a specific amount of time someone will have to remain quarantined after a positive test. Instead, a safe return to the team will be based on the following:

• The infected individual is without symptoms associated with COVID-19. 

• The infected individual satisfies the CDC's test-based strategy for resolution (which, as of the date of these Protocols, requires returning at least two consecutive negative PCR test results more than 24 hours apart).  

• The infected individual undergoes and is cleared following a medical evaluation by an NBA-designated consulting infectious disease physician (and, for any player or team staff member, in consultation with a team physician), including any additional testing or isolation period that the physician may require.

Players can leave the campus, but if they do so without team and league permission, they'll be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Family emergencies and extenuating factors will allow players and staff to leave "the bubble." Individuals with an approved reason to leave are subject to four days of quarantine. 

Staying at Disney

The teams will stay at three hotels in Disney - the Gran Destino Tower, the Grand Floridian and the Yacht Club. As far as which teams stay in which hotels, it will go by seeding. The higher seed you are, the better hotel accommodations.

While the idea of being isolated from the outside world isn't appealing, the NBA is taking measures to help players unwind. There will be a "Players Only Lounge" which will feature "NBA2K, TVs, arcade gaming, ping pong, and more. Resort-style outdoor spaces with shade, a set up for card games and pool access."

Players won't be forced to stay inside, either. In fact, the handbook is encouraging "outdoor socialization." The league will also provide entertainment like movie screenings and DJ sets. Teams will be allowed to schedule outings and excursions as well.

The players will get personal care, too. Barbers, manicurists, pedicurists, and hair braiders will be made available by appointment. They'll also be offered virtual chaplain services, yoga and meditation, virtual mind health sessions and mental health services.

Players will be provided fresh meals and each team will have its own separate dining area. They'll also be able to order room service. Depending on certain safety measures, outside food could be available. 

Family members will not be allowed until after the first round of the playoffs and will also be under strict safety and testing measures.

Playing at Disney

The player's handbook lays out where, how and when games will be played along with how practices and workouts will go.

The league has made sure teams will have adequate time and space to practice, workout and get treatment. The games themselves will be played on three separate courts at Disney's Wide World of Sports - The Arena, HP Field House and Visa Athletic Center.

The players' game-day schedule will be similar to a road game with a morning shootaround followed by a few hours of down time before heading to the arena. Players will arrive already dressed in uniform and will not be allowed to shower until they get back to their personal hotel room.

The NBA is discussing procedures that would allow players to be in attendance for games they're not participating in. Limited media will also be in attendance.

Is Florida ready?

It's clear the NBA is taking extraordinary measures to try to ensure player safety. But will that be enough?

As our country - and really the world - is still dealing with COVID-19, states have begun to reopen to varying degrees. Florida has been one of the more aggressive in terms of reopening and has seen a recent spike in positive cases. While increased testing is a part of that, the percentage of positives per test isn't encouraging.

NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh wrote a piece last week about the concerns facing the NBA's return to play plan. He spoke with two epidemiologists from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Dr. Zachary Binney and Dr. Neel Gandhi.

Gandhi's quote at the end of the article is startling:

We're still very early in this pandemic. It's important that we be clear: we're not bringing sports back because things are better now. We're bringing sports back because we're tired of not having them.

Commissioner Adam Silver has been steadfast in his message about using data over a date. Gandhi's quote seems to indicate an NBA return goes against Silver's sentiment.

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2020 NBA return: What to know about NBA's health protocols and player handbook originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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