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NBA closes team practice facilities; players allowed to travel domestically

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The league is settling in to the reality that things aren’t returning to normal any time soon.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

When the NBA made the decision to suspend the remainder of the regular season indefinitely due to the COVID-19 outbreak on March 11, the Dallas Mavericks were in the middle of a game. After the game, the situation was fluid and no one—not Coach Rick Carlisle nor owner Mark Cuban—knew what to expect going forward. There now seems to be a clearer picture emerging of what actions the league is taking.

Initially, Carlisle and Cuban iterated to the Mavericks players and team staff were to assume that the business of basketball was still ongoing, albeit without games. They also told them to be cautious about their interactions.

“There really hasn’t been much time to get into a lot of stuff,” Carlisle said March 11. “But we have laid down the basics as we know them. Everyone is to stay in town. That is one thing we told our guys. Games are suspended. Team activities are not.”

That appears to be changing. Team facilities will be closing to players and personnel starting Friday, March 20. Not only are team facilities closed to the players, the NBA is prohibiting them from using public areas such as health clubs, gyms, and college facilities. Across the country, local and state guidelines in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 closed many such places already. The City of Dallas ordered them closed on Monday.

Further, players will be allowed to travel outside of the markets in which they play, but they must remain inside the United States, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Considering how many international players the Mavericks have on their roster, this news may be disappointing for some.

These decisions come in the wake of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s appearance on SportsCenter where he laid out the possible future of the league. Silver said that he isn’t ready to rule out the remainder of the season, but he doesn’t know what the schedule will look like if play resumes. However, he and leadership from each team are looking at several possible scenarios.

”What are the conditions we need for the league to restart? I would say I’m looking at three different things,” Silver told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “One is, when can we restart and operate as we’ve known it with 19,000 fans in buildings? ... Option two is, should we consider restarting without fans, and what would that mean? Because, presumably, if we had a group of players, and staff around them, and you could test them and follow some sort of protocol, doctors and health officials may say it’s safe to play.”

A third option that Silver floated out there is the possibility of an exhibition game. He didn’t go into specifics about the game’s structure, but he said that perhaps such a game could serve as a large fundraising event—much like this year’s All-Star Game. Obviously, screenings for coronavirus would take place for any players before they could take part, but he thinks that it could be something that the sports world and fans need.

”Because people are stuck at home, and I think they need a diversion,” Silver said. “They need to be entertained.”

It’s uncertain when the NBA and its Board of Governors will be able to start the process of restarting the season. Based on reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is only in the initial stages of its outbreak. The league initially put a 30-day moratorium on games when it postponed the season, but it looks like a certainty that the league will extend it.

As for the Mavericks players, they’re now free to roam the country if they wish. If they do travel, they’ll need to heed the advice Cuban gave them when the season abruptly came to a halt.

“It’s our responsibility to be vigilant, and the players are in a unique position because wherever they are, people want to come up to them,” Cuban said. “You have to be very vigilant and very careful, because you are at risk. If you have family here, whether it’s your children or your grandmother, you don’t want to put them at risk. So be very, very careful and vigilant.”