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NBA announces even tighter COVID-19 restrictions

Field Level Media

January 12, 2021 at 8:51 pm.

The NBA announced stricter COVID-19 protocols Tuesday in the wake of surging positive cases across the country as well as situations that have caused multiple games to be postponed in recent days.

The Boston Celtics were forced to postpone three games in a four-day stretch starting Sunday, with their game Friday against the Orlando Magic also in jeopardy. The Celtics will not have the required eight players available Wednesday in the first of two games scheduled against the Magic.

Boston had its game Sunday postponed because its opponent, the Miami Heat, did not have enough available players. Since Friday, the Celtics have put seven players on its injury report as required by the league’s health and safety protocols.

The NBA is now requiring all players to remain at their residence when the team is in its home market, at least for the next two weeks. Interactions are limited to family members and any staff that works at the home. On the road, players are not allowed to leave the team hotel unless it is a team activity or an emergency.

Activity at the arena also will be heavily restricted. Team meetings will be limited to 10 minutes and all staff in attendance must wear facemasks. All treatment and physical therapy sessions must occur in a large open space with 12 feet between individual stations. Players are also prohibited from arriving at the arena on game day more than three hours before tipoff.

In addition, all players will be required to wear facemasks on the bench at all times, with players exiting the game allowed to go to a cool-down area at least 12 feet from the bench. After cooling down a player must return to the bench and wear a facemask.

On team flights, a seating plan must be created to match players with the same teammates they sit next to on the bench during games. In addition, any household staff that enters a player’s residence must agree to COVID-19 testing twice a week.

Players or staff who have tested positive or are considered a high-risk contact could be asked to undergo COVID-19 testing as many as five consecutive days, with two tests per day.

The NBA has now postponed five games this season for COVID-19 reasons, with none of those games yet to be rescheduled. In addition to three games involving the Celtics, the season-opening game on Dec. 23 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets was halted, as was a Jan. 11 game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks.

The Heat, Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls all have multiple players listed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.