The NBA revised it's COVID protocols and changed something a GM called "the Mack truck driving through all our protocols." Until yesterday, players and staff could leave hotels for non-team activities and have up to two visitors in their hotel rooms. That is no longer permitted.
This change is the NBA's latest attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which is causing more and more games to be canceled. Seth Curry sitting on the bench while waiting for his test results and a hug between Bradley Beal and Ben Simmons triggered a chain reaction that has several teams without the minimum eight players available. I assume everyone's seen "Contagion" by this point, but here's how it works.
While the additional restrictions may help, they are not the main issue here. As we heard before the season, the NBA released a COVID protocol handbook over 100 pages long. Five, fifty, or five hundred pages don't make a difference if you don't enforce the rules that are on the page. If Silver has a blind spot, it's disciplining players in following the rules. Even the existing rules were not enforced - players and coaches wearing masks on the bench, keeping a distance, etc. Some make sense, some may not - but if you let players determine which rules to follow, you won't make it through the season.
“This seems like Adam Silver's first major fu**-up since he's been the Commissioner. I think he's got a free ride in the past seven years in this respect. People really like him; he wasn't David Stern, he was very accessible, he's very friendly, and he did an awesome job.”
Bill Simmons, The BS Podcast
Simmons continued to make the point we've been making for a while now. Players have been getting away with a lot of things during Silver's tenure. That set a precedent that there aren't many consequences if you bend or break the rules. We don't need to go far back - James Harden suffered no consequences for blowing up the Rockets and violating the league's COVID protocol.
“Adam Silver is going to have to tap into his inner Stern. Stern would love this; he would've loved lording over all this, fining people and suspending people. Just getting mad and putting in protocols. Being a dictator. Silver doesn't want to be a dictator; Silver wants everyone to like each other and get along. I think we're at a point, if they need to get through the next four to five months, he's going to have to be a dick a couple of times, and we'll see if he has it in him.”
Bill Simmons, The BS Podcast
Could not agree more. So now we have a prohibition on non-team events when traveling and no guests in hotel rooms. That won't mean anything if players don't get severely fined the first time someone breaks that rule. The first opportunity the league has is with Kyrie Irving. Nets owner Joseph Tsai is the co-owner of Alibaba, the league's conduit to repairing the relationship with China and reopening that major market. This will probably be a consideration Silver will make when deciding what to do with Kyrie.
If it turns out Irving really did not play because he didn't feel like it and went to his sister's birthday party, where he didn't even wear a mask, the NBA has to react and send a message to everyone. No, having six consecutive days of negative tests would not be enough. It would be bad if Damian Lillard had a stronger statement on responsibility than the Commissioner.