NBA players will be allowed to return to team training facilities starting Friday, provided that their local governments do not have a stay-at-home order prohibiting such movement still in place as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Any workouts that take place would be voluntary and be limited to individual sessions only, according to a person familiar with the league's decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Saturday on condition of anonymity because the directives from the league were not released publicly.
Group practices would not be allowed yet, and teams will not yet be permitted to organize in-person workouts.
But as certain states and municipalities began loosening restrictions on personal movement, the NBA decided it was time to let players return to their practice courts — if only on a limited basis. Georgia and Oklahoma are among the states that have allowed some businesses to reopen and some cities in Florida are expected to loosen their stay-at-home policies in the coming days, even though health officials are warning that such moves are being made too quickly.
For those teams in cities where stay-at-home orders still make such a return impossible, the NBA said it would work to find "alternative arrangements," the person with knowledge of the matter said.
This move does not mean that a resumption of games is imminent. Still, the decision to let teams back into facilities is a significant step.
ESPN first reported details of the NBA's decision.
In the NHL, suspended at about the same point of the season as the NBA, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said league officials "haven't made any decisions yet." Daly said only the NHL owes players and teams guidance before April 30 and will consider its next steps in that context.
Many NBA players have said they haven't even had access to a basket since the league ordered teams to close their practice facilities on March 19. All-Star Jimmy Butler sent baskets to his Miami Heat teammates earlier this month, but some other players around the league said they haven't even touched a basketball during the shutdown.
If they're so inclined, that can now change. There remains no indicator about when a full-fledged return to organized team workouts will resume, however.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said on several occasions that the league does not anticipate being able to decide until sometime in May — at the earliest — if a resumption of the season is possible.
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The NBA suspended the season March 11. It ordered teams to shutter their facilities eight days later, saying at the time it was doing so "in light of the rapidly-developing coronavirus situation, and consistent with evolving advice from health experts regarding how to promote individual and public health while minimizing the spread of the virus."
Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the numbers of those affected or killed by the virus based off official government figures, said the COVID-19 worldwide death toll surpassed 200,000 on Saturday. And the World Health Organization said "there is currently no evidence" that people who have recovered from the virus cannot fall sick again.
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