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As training camp begins, NBA teams know that this season won’t be perfect

The NBA is fully expecting for the coronavirus to touch the league once again. A certain number of players, coaches, staff, or even their family members will inevitably contract the virus.

SHARE As training camp begins, NBA teams know that this season won’t be perfect
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Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45), left, and Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23) leap from the bench to help up Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) after was fouled during the Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Even without a bubble in which to isolate its players from the rest of the world, the NBA is forging ahead with plans for the 2020-21 season.

And here’s the thing, the NBA is fully expecting for the coronavirus to touch the league once again. A certain number of players, coaches, staff, or even their family members will inevitably contract the virus. What the NBA is hoping is that it can contain the number of cases to a manageable degree and still finish the season and the playoffs by the end of July.

In a memo sent to teams this week, the league office detailed safety protocols and guidelines for 2020-21 season.

“It is likely that some staff, players, and other participants in the 2020-21 season nonetheless will test positive or contract COVID-19, particularly as the virus remains prevalent in particular team markets and surrounding communities,” the memo read, according to The Athletic. “The occurrence of independent cases (i.e., cases not spread among players or team staff) or a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the 2020-21 season.”

Players who test positive for the virus will be required to quarantine for at least 10 days before returning to individual work for two days and then returning to team activities. That’s nearly two weeks and with a condensed 72-game schedule it could mean missing multiple games. Teams are hoping that players will be diligent in hygienic practices and avoiding gatherings so that their season is not interrupted too much.

It all starts this week as players from all corners of the world descend upon NBA cities to begin the first phase of training camp — COVID-19 testing.

Through Dec. 6, players will be able to workout individually and in limited groups of up to four people. Then from Dec. 6 to Dec. 19, teams will hold an abbreviated version of training camp that also includes preseason games. 

The Utah Jazz will play the Phoenix Suns twice at Vivint Smart Home Arena, on Dec. 12 and Dec. 14, before heading to southern California to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 17.

All preseason games will be played without fans in arenas.

Teams will continue to monitor players and enforce mask wearing and distancing when they aren’t on the court, while also conducting regular testing. The NBA has limited the number of people allowed in team traveling parties to 45 and has set up an anonymous hotline that can be used to report individuals not following league-set guidelines.

The schedule for the first half of the season will be released in the coming days and will include games from opening night, Dec. 22, through the 2021 All-Star break which will be held from March 5-10.

The Jazz are one of a handful of teams that will be allowing fans in arenas on a limited basis for regular season games, so long as it doesn’t present any problems.

The All-Star break will not be the typical break with all of the festivities. The All-Star game and events have been cancelled for 2021.

Releasing the schedule in halves allows the NBA some flexibility for adjustments if there are issues that arise, such as games being postponed which has happened across professional sports leagues that have played without a bubble.

The second half of the season is tentatively scheduled to take place from March 11 through May 16 and will be followed by a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff seed in each conference.

The NBA playoffs are slated to begin on May 22.

While the NBA’s bubble in Orlando went off without a hitch, the plan for the 2020-21 season introduces many variables that the NBA has not had to deal with since last March when the league suspended the 2019-20 season.

Travel, hotel staff, family gatherings, and increased interaction with outside individuals increases the risk of the virus being introduced to any team. The Jazz, all too familiar with the coronavirus have said that they will be following all league-mandated guidelines while going above and beyond.

Though an outline of the season has been made and the first-half schedule will be released soon, it is all subject to change. That’s how the league and all the teams are approaching this season. Everyone is hopeful that it will all work out, but they understand that this will once again be a season unlike any other and that anything can happen.