With media day and training camp starting this week, the beginning of the NBA season is only weeks away. While the season appears normal like the typical NBA season, the league is still affected by the worldwide pandemic. Following the bubble that finished the 2019-2020 season, health and safety protocols were created to help protect players and team staff for the shortened 2020-21 season. Countless people missed games due to the health and safety protocols, but the season was a success overall. Several games were rescheduled, but all teams played 72 games. With the introduction of a vaccine, some of the protocols were slightly altered. Looking towards the 2021-22 season, the health and safety protocols have become a little stricter as players were given the choice to get the vaccine or not. In addition to the league, regulations made by some states will have an impact on players and teams.
According to several reports, the vaccination rate among NBA players is around 90%. While that is good for the league, the remaining 10% that have chosen not to get the vaccine will be affected the most. The updated protocols will require unvaccinated players to be separated from vaccinated teammates in most cases. They will be required to be in different parts of planes, buses, and areas when eating. In addition to being separated from vaccinated players, unvaccinated players will see tests on practice and game days. In the case they are pulled due to contact tracing, they will have to quarantine a mandatory amount of time. Vaccinated players who could be involved with contact tracing will not have to quarantine if they test negative. Just recently, it was announced that players who miss games due to vaccine mandates will not be paid for those games. The protocols have already spawned concern for those who are vaccinated, worried they could bring the virus home without knowing because of the unvaccinated. There is still concern for older members of organizations, including someone like San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is 72 years old.
In addition to the league, states like California have made regulations that will affect all NBA teams but will have a significant impact on the teams in the state. A major example of this is the Chase Center in San Francisco, home of the Golden State Warriors. The Chase Center will require everyone over the age of 12 to show proof of being fully vaccinated, while those under the age of 12 can get in showing a negative test within 72 hours of the event start time. As for those 12 and up who are not fully vaccinated, they will not be able to attend any events with more than 1,000 attendees, regardless of their reasoning for not being vaccinated. This has already affected players such as Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins. He has already been denied an exemption to not get the vaccine. Because of the league protocols as well as state regulations, Wiggins will miss all home games. This will obviously affect the Warriors when they are at home.
Several players were missing from their teams during the beginning of training camps and media day. Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns missed media day and the beginning of training camp. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving also missed media day due to New York’s proof of vaccine requirement. The absence of both players would have a significant impact on their teams. With Devin Booker possibly missing the start of the season, the Suns could struggle early on. With Kyrie’s decision regarding the vaccine, it could mean not making the finals for the Nets. Brooklyn was on the verge of making the conference finals without Irving for several games and an injured James Harden throughout the first and second round. If Kyrie were to miss home games due to the state’s vaccination requirement, there is no telling where the team could end up in the standings. Other stars such as Bradley Beal and (as previously mentioned) Andrew Wiggins, will miss games in New York and California, with more states potentially affecting how and where stars can play. With the start of the season only weeks away, there is hope that the vaccination rate of players will increase or mandates by the league will ease up.
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