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Clippings: The coronavirus has already made its way into the 2020-21 season

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How the NBA plans to enforce protocols outside of a bubble remains an open question.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, video surfaced of Rockets star James Harden at an indoor party in Atlanta without a mask on. Consequently, Harden hasn’t yet been cleared to begin training camp in Houston as he hasn’t yet gone through the COVID-19 protocols to begin practice.

A shortened training camp is already underway, a shortened preseason will begin later this week, and the Rockets are still without their best player. It’s an unfortunate situation for a team that recently fancied itself a contender, and it’s one that is could become commonplace during the regular season. Already, the Blazers have had to shut down their practice facility after three positive tests, and it’s unclear if they’ll be able to proceed with their preseason games beginning Friday.

The NBA had rigorous enforcement of its rules in the bubble, and even though the league doesn’t have the ability to track players, coaches, and team staffers to the same extent outside of the bubble, the punishments will be punitive. ESPN reported that if individuals are found to be noncompliant, punishments could extend to suspensions, forfeits, and loss of draft picks:

Any violations that lead to spreading the coronavirus to other teams, and as a result require adjustments to the NBA’s schedule or impact any other team, could cause punishments up to, and including, “fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices and/or being forced to forfeit games.

The NBA also released a strict health and safety guide this weekend that limits external activities. Per ESPN, at home, players are not allowed to “go to bars, lounges or clubs; attend live entertainment or game venues; or visit public gyms, spas, pool areas or large indoor social gatherings that exceed 15 people.” On the road, teams are to stay in their hotels unless dining in a private room at a pre-approved restaurant.

These restrictions all seem reasonable in order to maintain the safety and security of league personnel, but it’s hard to imagine that all individuals will follow the rules. Harden is the first of what figure to be more examples. It will be interesting to see if the NBA sets a precedent with the former MVP, or if Harden will skate through if he produces enough negative tests. Either way, this NBA experiment for the 2020-21 season is off to an uneven start.

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