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Clippings: The NBA has released its protocols for the 2020-21 season

Be prepared for some interruptions on the schedule.

Los Angeles Clippers v Denver Nuggets - Game Six Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

When the NBA set off to Orlando to complete last season in a bubble, it gave teams a 113-page manual on how it would conduct operations. As of last week, however, the league still hadn’t distributed protocols for the upcoming season with training camp due to start Tuesday.

That changed over the weekend, as the NBA dropped a 134-page set of instructions on how the 2020-21 season will proceed, this time without a bubble. The biggest difference between the two situations was that the bubble was supposed to be a coronavirus-free zone; now that teams are in their home markets, much of the current protocol deals with what to do when, not if, an individual tests positive. The manual reads (c/o USA Today):

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 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.

ESPN goes into detail about how a player can return to play after contracting the virus according to “time-based” and “test-based” resolutions. All players who test positive will have to cease workouts for at least 10 days after their test or the end of symptoms. There are also procedures in place for contact tracing, notifying local authorities, and setting up individuals who test positive in isolation housing.

Players are expected to be in their local markets now and undergo PCR tests so they can begin workouts. There was a wave of positive tests when the NBA readied for the bubble, but hopefully the number is lower this time around. There will once again be a hotline for individuals to report on those who are breaking the rules, though that will presumably be more difficult to track now that everyone isn’t isolated on the same campus, and The Athletic reports that retaliation against those who use the hotline is prohibited.

Currently, workouts are limited to four individuals at any given time. That will ramp up on Dec. 6, but the league restricts the number of people in the practice facility to 50 at any given time. As the L.A. Times notes, it’s unclear how Los Angeles County’s ban on public gatherings will affect the Clippers (and the Lakers) at this point.

It seems strange that the NBA is returning to play with so much uncertainty, and so much tolerance for individuals contracting the coronavirus, after the bubble essentially eliminated that concern. But this is how most other sports leagues have conducted business in 2020, and now it’s the NBA’s turn.

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