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NBA notifies teams it will allow facilities to open on May 8 to make the process safer, more fair

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The league previously had said May 1, which put teams like the Suns at a disadvantage because Arizona is not in a position to loosen stay-at-home guidelines.

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns, Game 5 Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

After a weekend of deliberations, the NBA came to a final decision on the process of opening up team facilities across the country.

Teams had already expected a formal announcement today, but after Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news late last week that in states like Georgia, where local officials are already starting to lift stay-at-home orders and allow business to reopen, teams like the Hawks could return to team facilities on an individual basis to work out, people within the NBA became split over the safety and security of doing so.

That led to reporting from Wojnarowski and Shams Charania this morning detailing a new, more rigorous plan to let players get back on their feet after weeks cooped up at home.

Most importantly, the NBA will push back the start date for facility re-openings to May 8, a change which Wojnarowski tweeted was not an issue of competitive balance — different states opening at different times — but player and staff safety.

Later, Charania got hold of the official guidelines put out by the league, which are still held up by local orders but outline a more rigorous safety and cleanliness standard than previous reports indicated. The NBA will allow no more than four players to be at a team’s facility at one time, and no more than one team staff member. Moreover, players must return to the city they play in to use facilities — they can’t work out at the gym closest to where they’ve been quarantining.

In addition, staffers must wear gloves, players must wear masks upon entry, and nobody should ever be closer than 12 feet apart, Charania reported.

When it comes to avoiding becoming infected with COVID-19, it seems players will have to resume workouts at their own risk. The NBA let teams know that they do not currently have the means of testing everyone involved en masse, though that could change over time (and will need to if games are played any time soon).

However, Charania also noted teams will give players ECG and troponin tests on a consistent basis, which will help organizations monitor irregularities in players’ heart beats and blood pressure. Think of it like the NBA’s version of your boss moving your desk across the room when you return to work (eventually).

Teams also must — according to Charania — appoint one senior team executive to be its Facility Hygiene Officer for the duration of these guidelines.

What remains unclear is the competitive balance aspect that Wojnarowski said was not a primary concern among people across the league. My hunch is that it soon will be.

These regulations seem pretty reasonable in terms of protecting players from infection, but as Adam Silver and his staff get closer to making a determination on what the remainder of the season will hold, the fact that say, the Denver Nuggets (whose governor is starting to peel back restrictions) have been on the court for several more weeks than the Los Angeles Lakers (whose restrictions are currently indefinite), will become a problem.

Originally, Wojnarowski said the league would work with teams in more restricted locales to come up with a plan for players to return to gyms, but that plan is still not publicly known, and there is no easy answer, especially with the NBA now mandating that players only work out at their team’s facility. That not only sets the stage for unnecessary travel but also an uneven workout schedule.

In order for the Suns to return to Talking Stick Resort Arena, sports would need to become included on the list of businesses that Gov. Doug Ducey lifts restrictions on as part of his first phase of “re-opening” Arizona’s economy. The guidelines expire on Thursday, but so far Ducey only has said that elective surgeries can resume at hospitals starting that day, but nothing more. Ducey is expected to give further details in coming days over what comes next for the state.

As Wojnarowski reported last week and as I broke down here, these rules are not believed to put the NBA any closer to resuming its season, and especially considering its momentous admission that testing will not be available when facilities open up again, any permanent declaration about the 2019-20 season still seems a long way off.