Earlier this week, both the board of governors and the players voted to move ahead with the NBA’s return to play proposal. The wheels are now officially in motion for games to resume on July 31 at Disney World in Orlando. Twenty-two teams will be in attendance, and they’ll play eight regular season games each before proceeding to the playoffs.
Now that a plan is in place, and everyone has agreed on a format and schedule, the league can start figuring out some of the details. Among them is what to do in case of injury or a positive COVID-19 test. Players will be tested nightly, and the league has made it clear that things will move along even if a player comes down with the coronavirus.
But those players will be quarantined for at least seven days, and possibly up to 14, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks. Because of that risk, and the potential competitive disadvantage, teams are expected to be allowed to sign replacement players. Negotiations are currently underway to determine which players will be eligible to be signed. Via ESPN:
If COVID-19 or a serious injury strikes a team during training camps or the eight regular-season seeding games, there is expected to be no limitations on the number of players a team could sign to replace those lost, but there would be restrictions on those in the pool of eligible players, sources said.
Eligible replacement players will likely have had to be signed in the NBA or G-League or be on training camp contracts this season, sources said. Under these restrictions, for example, no team could sign veteran Jamal Crawford — who went unsigned all season — or an international player.
The league office has discussed the possibility with its teams that there could be a requirement that those players replaced for COVID-19 or injury would become ineligible to return for the balance of this season, sources said.
While this is a necessary allowance, teams may not actually take advantage of this rule. For one, the health and safety measures in place would mean a big delay between signing a player and them actually being able to help the team. They would need to be quarantined after arriving in Orlando, and then have to get up to speed with what the team is doing in very short order.
Considering the pool of available players is going to be pretty shallow, it may just make more sense to wait for their player to return from injury and/or sickness. That’s not to say no teams will add players if necessary, just that there’s some real thought that will go into that decision, especially if replaced players are then ineligible to return for the rest of the season.
Because of the logistical issues with replacing a player, teams are pushing the league to allow two-way players to join the quarantine bubble in Orlando from the start. As it stands, the league does not want them there until the playoffs in order to limit the number of people inside. However, two-way players would offer a much simpler alternative for teams looking for roster flexibility, and some have become key contributors for teams.
Per Wojnarowski’s report, this issue, and other similar details are expected to be ironed out in the next week.