NBA Limits Game-Day Interaction Among Players, More in New COVID-19 Protocols

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2021

A general view as the Atlanta Hawks bring the ball up court during an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New York. The Hawks won 114-96. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Amid multiple teams dealing with COVID-19 issues, the NBA has implemented stricter COVID-19 protocols for players before, during and after games.

The changes include outlawing hugging and other physical interaction between opposing players before and after the game as well as reducing social interaction during games, including tapping hands after free throws.

The NBA plan is also enforcing the wearing of masks by coaches and players on the bench during games more strictly as well.

The NBA and NBPA have implemented the regulations for at least the next two weeks: 

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Below are the new restrictions the NBA & NBPA agreed to for at least the next two weeks in light of the pandemic + postponed games due to COVID-19 & contact tracing https://t.co/wsOJzJjewc

One NBA general manager told Adrian Wojnarowski of Tim Bontemps of ESPN that non-team visitors, who are now banned from players' hotel rooms, had been "the Mack truck driving through all our protocols." 

The new guidelines come after the NBA postponed three games in recent days as a result of multiple positive COVID-19 tests.

On Sunday, the scheduled game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics was called off because of contact tracing issues within the Heat organization, per ESPN.

Then, Monday's game between the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, as well as Tuesday's Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls game, were postponed as well.

Multiple Mavericks players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, while Celtics vs. Bulls didn't happen because of contact tracing.

Those postponements are the first ones since the start of the season, when the Houston Rockets' season-opening game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was called off last month after three Rockets players returned positive or inconclusive COVID-19 tests.

The NBA has largely been able to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic this season after the success of last season's bubble concept in Orlando, Florida, but with coronavirus cases starting to spike, the league is taking an even more active approach in an attempt to curb the spread.