The Minnesota Timberwolves announced earlier today that beginning on Thursday, May 21, the team would be reopening their practice facility for voluntary workouts.
Working in unison with local government officials, infectious disease experts and public health authorities, the team has developed strict protocols to ensure this first step will take place in a controlled and healthy environment that will emphasize safety for both the players as well as all members of the Wolves organization. According to a statement released be the team, these new protocols include:
- One coach and one player will be allowed on the floor at a time and parties will be required to keep a 12-foot social distance.
- Workouts will be limited to 45 minutes.
- Locker room, weight room, offices and other areas of the building will remain closed.
- Staff members will wear gloves and masks at all times when in the building. Players will wear masks at all times except when on court.
- A thorough cleaning of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will take place before and after each player uses the building.
- Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
- Contact tracing will be administered upon entry. Contact tracing will help identify where players have been the past 24 hours and if there were any cases reported from that location.
- Players will receive custom to-go meals from KZ Provisioning lead by Chefs Gavin Kaysen and Andrew Zimmern. Players in market have received daily meals from KZ Provisioning during the NBA hiatus.
- There will be no media, public or general staff access to the building, and security will be in place outside the facility to ensure physical distancing and the safety of everyone on site.
On a morning Zoom call with local media members, both Gersson Rosas and Dr. Robby Sikka once again emphasized that the safety of the players, staff and the overall community is paramount as the team enters their own version of “Phase 1.” When asked about what the initial voluntary workouts will look like and exactly who is (and who isn’t) eligible to attend, Rosas said:
We have a handful of guys who are eligible to take part in this tomorrow. The reality is that guys have gone in and out of the market, there’s some standards in place of when they can open up the facility and Robby can walk you through it. Those are league-mandated guidelines. For us, a big part of it is just to be there for our guys, to make sure we can see where they’re at after this layoff. There’s an assessment period.
But more than anything we just want to give them a little bit of joy. We want to give them a little bit of normalcy. We want them to have fun back in the gym, but we want to do it in a safe and responsible manner. There will be some short workouts as we get started here, an opportunity for guys to be in a safe environment where they can get some work in, some sort of a routine in. We don’t know what the long road back looks like, but we want to make sure that our guys, day by day, are doing the most they can to get themselves in the best shape possible. But after a layoff of this type, it’s going to take some time. For us, it’s a better place mentally and improving where they’re at physically.
Dr. Sikka, who in addition to his direct involvement with the Wolves has also been extremely busy as he spearheads the coronavirus antibody study that all 30 NBA teams are participating in, had this to say about the “Phase 1” process for the team:
There is nothing compulsory about what we’re doing. These are structured workouts so that players can come in and have a chance to use a court. It’s been well-documented that not everybody has access to courts. So being able to come in and do something basketball-related is, frankly, a release for a lot of players, especially at a time where they’ve been cooped up for a while. So I think they want to do something.
But our first priority is their safety and their welfare. Not just the players’ safety and welfare, but our staff. So making sure that everybody is aligned and comfortable with a protocol has been something that we’ve really, really tried to emphasize good communication throughout this whole ordeal. When you acknowledge that you don’t know the answers to everything and you tell people that you don’t absolutely know that everything is perfect, you have to make sure that people understand that there’s always going to be risks going forward. We have to make sure that we do the right thing based on what the state is staying, based on what the government is saying and based on what the league is saying, of course.
Speaking of “what the league is saying,” just a few hours after the Wolves announced their plans to become the 18th team in the NBA to reopen their training facility, Woj and Zach Lowe provided an update as to when the league could see the next major step in resuming the 2019-2020 season:
Reporting with @ZachLowe_NBA: NBA teams are expecting the league office will issue guidelines around June 1 that will allow franchises to start recalling players who’ve left their markets to return as a first step toward a formal ramp-up for the season’s resumption.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 20, 2020
Earlier in the day, Shams broke the news that the NBA may be narrowing in on one specific location that best fits the league’s requirements for creating a “campus-like environment” for if/when the season does return:
The NBA has Orlando/Disney World as a clear frontrunner for return-to-play site for resuming 2019-20 season, sources tell me and @sam_amick. Orlando has gained significant seriousness among other cites such as Las Vegas.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 20, 2020
So after weeks and weeks of unknowns and little to no information, Wednesday marked a fairly big day in the NBA, both locally and on a national stage. While there are still plenty of issues and logistics to figure out (as well as continued information to be gathered about COVID-19), it does appear that teams and the league as a whole are preparing themselves for a return to whatever new “normal” we may soon be facing.
As always, please continue to be safe and thanks for reading.