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NBA now up to 10 teams back for voluntary workouts

/ 08:17 AM May 14, 2020
NBa return coronavirus pandemic

FILE – In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, the Miami Heat and the Memphis Grizzlies practice before an NBA basketball game in Miami, Fla. If so inclined, NBA teams like Miami, Orlando and Utah could all be back in the gym for voluntary workouts in small groups starting Friday when the league ban on such things expires. None of them will be reopening that day. There’s a clear desire for basketball to resume but, perhaps mindful of how rushing back too quickly hurt other leagues around the world, the NBA seems to be taking very cautious baby steps back to the court. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

MIAMI  — The NBA is now one-third of the way back, at least in terms of voluntary workouts.

With Miami re-opening its doors Wednesday, 10 of the league’s 30 teams have gone forward with on-court individual workouts — the first permitted sessions since the league ordered teams to close their training facilities as part of the coronavirus pandemic response about two months ago.

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Besides the Heat, the other teams that have opened so far are Portland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Indiana, Sacramento, Toronto and Utah. More are expected in the coming days; among them, Orlando is close, and the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting Saturday.

And while there still is no decision about whether the season can resume — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, has told the league’s players he expects to make that call by mid-June at the latest — getting back to some semblance of work is generally being considered a positive step.

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“We’re kind of just feeling it out, playing it by ear, taking it day by day,” said Toronto assistant coach Brittni Donaldson, who was in the gym with Raptors wing Malcolm Miller when the reigning NBA champions opened their facility again Monday. “Hopefully, you know, in a week we can start ramping it up a little more. But to start we’re just keeping it very basic, very simple.”

The league has very strict rules about these workouts; no head coaches can be involved, no more than four players can be in the facility at a time — the Raptors are limiting it to one player — and intense safety precautions must be taken before, during and after the sessions. When Donaldson was throwing passes to Miller, she did so while wearing a mask and gloves.

Heat captain Udonis Haslem was one of Miami’s players to report back to work on Day 1 at their facility, though it wasn’t his top priority. He was sporting a customized mask with the team’s logo earlier Wednesday when he appeared at a food distribution drive that he helped organize near downtown Miami.

“This is first,” Haslem said at the food drive. ” This is most important.”

Haslem said the workout started well, then he began to fade a bit toward the end. Like most NBA players, he’s been doing individual workouts during the league’s hiatus but said nothing replicates what it takes to get through an on-court workout.
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis let professional leagues know that the Sunshine State is ready to welcome them all if needed.

With Orlando often mentioned as a potential centralized site if the NBA resumes play, and it was one of the sites Silver told players late last week that is under consideration, DeSantis said Wednesday that the state is putting a premium on the value of professional sports.

“Professional sports are going to be welcome in Florida,” DeSantis said. “That may not be the case in every other state in this country, as we’ve seen. And so what I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida, because we think it’s important and we know that it can be done safely.”

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