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NBA set to allow selected team facilities to open as early as May 8

Atlanta Hawks Introduce Draft Picks - Portraits Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE: The NBA will reportedly push the start day for teams to reopen facilities to May 8. This action comes after public comments from Atlanta’s Travis Schlenk, indicating that the Hawks would not reopen on May 1 despite the easing of local shelter-in-place restrictions.

While the NFL Draft dominated the sports world over the weekend, NBA news emerged on Saturday evening, and it arrived from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. At the moment, team facilities across the league shut doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic but, with the backdrop of some states — including Georgia — beginning to open up to varying degrees, Wojnarowski reported that the NBA will allow facilities to open on May 1 in locales where governments are pulling back on shelter-in-place orders.

Immediately, the reaction was swift and largely negative, with justified concerns that the NBA would fall victim to an early re-opening. In fact, Wojnarowski’s first tweet on the subject (seen above) painted a rather broad picture, saying only that the league is “allowing teams to open their practice facilities to players” while following the lead of local governments. However, more context was to come and, while some missed the follow-up clarifications, they are important to note.

First, Wojnarowski writes that “teams will remain prohibited from holding group workouts or organized team activities,” burying any notion that franchises will be conducting normal basketball-related business. From there, many noted the potential for a competitive disadvantage for franchises that operate in states with more restrictive governmental situations, and Wojnarowski poured a bit of cold water on that as well, reporting that “the NBA is telling teams the league will work with franchises to help find alternative arrangements for their players.”

For better or worse, the discussion is centering, at least in some circles, on the Hawks, simply because Georgia is a state that began to ease restrictions on Friday, with planned expansion to other businesses on Monday. While Wojnarowski does not pass along any specific reporting on the Atlanta Hawks, he does report that “some GMs said they had players asking about the possibility of traveling to Atlanta to work out in fitness centers with gymnasiums, an idea that concerned many team executives.”

Ultimately, the NBA world will wait for further details to discern how the NBA will actually be operating when May arrives, and that is especially true for the Hawks, with the franchise not releasing any formal statement at this time. In addition, Wojnarowski notes that “some GMs expressed concern to ESPN about the safety of the idea” of opening up team facilities this quickly. That sets the stage for perhaps the greatest revelation of the piece, with ESPN reporting that the decision to reopen some facilities “isn’t reflective of a new timetable for a resumption of play this season.”

It will be (very) interesting to follow the discussion in the coming days but, for now, no official announcement has been made from either the league or the Hawks. Furthermore, the opening of team facilities will hopefully provide refuge for players to workout on an individual basis, rather than the reestablishment of any sense of team-wide normalcy.

Stay tuned.