Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

NBA bans hugging to curb COVID spread in sport featuring constant physical contact

This will fix everything
This will fix everything
Photo: Getty Images

The NBA is implementing NO TOUCHING!

You can always count on leagues protecting their TV money over all to find just about every half-measure possible to look like they’re doing something to find better ways to play through a pandemic rather than actually doing it. The NBA was once thought of a leading light, but as their season drifts more and more into a cartoon, they’ve fallen into this muck as well:

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What the NBA is concerned about is more postponements, not really stopping the virus. Bradley Beal had to be sidelined for the Wizards’ last game because he had a postgame chat with Jayson Tatum, who later tested positive. Other players have had to be held out for similar interactions.

While this certainly is a measure, it’s not all that decisive of one. There is still no evidence of team-to-team transmission of the virus, and the spreading of it is taking place within teams that are obviously spending a lot of time together, and a lot of time near each other at practice. How do you stop that? Have teams not practice? Somehow stage a practice with everyone six feet apart? That might actually make for fun viewing.

Certainly less physical contact is a good idea, but these are still games where players spend a lot of time on court, the most confined space of any sport really, near each other. They’re in the post, they’re lining up for free throws, they’re near the bench outside the 3-point line, they’re guarding each other. No pre- or post-game hugs and fist bumps might take off a percentage of risk, but it’s almost certainly a low one.

What these new protocols are hoping to achieve, assuming there are no others, is the NBA having to postpone more games simply because players from other teams were around each other extraneously. They’re obviously not going to suspend games simply because players were near each other, otherwise they’d never play. And it doesn’t address spreading amongst teammates, because there’s no way to stop that either. They just don’t want a repeat of what happened with the Celtics and Wizards, which might save them a game or two. Which doesn’t really matter when they haven’t set a threshold of how many games being postponed, or at what rate, it would take to stop the season. The latter being the only surefire tactic to combat the spread of the virus within the sport. They’re making it up as they go, because no one is holding them responsible.

The real problem, which the NBA is trying to address as well, is simply players’ behavior. More Woj:

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This on the day that Kyrie Iriving is under investigation for being James Harden: East Coast chapter. That’s far more dangerous than players bumping fists after the game, and one the league (all leagues really) has to get a handle on. But again, getting every single player to adhere to these for months on end is a real challenge. It’s just not a life they’re accustomed to. And you can bark about millionaire athletes being pampered and spoiled all you want, but it’s not like we’ve been successful in getting ordinary citizens to do this kind of thing either.

Along with that:

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Curious this was allowed in the first place, which lets you know just how important it was to players to keep some level of road strange on the docket.

But hey, maybe after a free throw we’ll see someone give it the George Bluth gesture.

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.