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What happens if NBA's more-stringent rules fail to counter COVID spread?


The simple, and immediate, answer to my title question is that the rules will get stricter if the most-recent measures don't work. Here are the latest restrictions.

  • Until at least Jan. 26, players, coaches and team staff members are required to remain at home when in their home markets unless they are attending team-related activities, exercising outside, performing essential activities or going out for what the league termed “extraordinary circumstances.”

  • Also for at least the next two weeks: When away from team activities, players should avoid interacting with people who do not live or regularly work in their homes.

  • On the road, players and staff will be prohibited from leaving the team hotel except for team activities or emergencies and will be barred from interacting with non-team guests at the hotel. (Players were previously permitted to host up to two guests in their hotel rooms, provided they were family members or longstanding personal friends.)

  • Face coverings are now mandatory for players on the bench at all times, except when players sit in cool-down chairs after exiting a game that are at least 12 feet away from the main bench area. Players are also required to wear masks in the locker rooms, during strength and conditioning activities and while traveling with anyone out of their household.

  • Before and after games, players are only allowed to greet each other with elbow or fist bumps. They have been asked to avoid “extended socializing.”

My first reaction is that the changes, on the surface, could work if they are followed. But we are talking - for the most part - about youngsters in their late-teens and 20's with a lot of money to spend. The thought that "no one will ever know" if some of these rules are broken has to be in the minds of some of them.

And that's all it takes - just one to break the rules and potentially bring the virus back to the team. We are talking human beings here, not robots. The restrictions are for at least two weeks. That could work, but a longer stint being cooped up in their homes and hotel rooms could really test the players' levels of mental discipline and morality. 

If these newly-instituted measures fail to quell the COVID-19 spread among the League's players, the next step may involve a much-longer stay in another version of the bubble - or a pause, or even a total halt - to the 2020-21 season.

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