Players react to new NBA COVID-19 protocols

By Michael Kinney

Oklahoma City Thunder guard George Hill was not happy. When the 13- year veteran was asked about the new enhanced COVID-19 health guidelines instituted by the NBA, he didn’t mince words or hide his displeasure Tuesday night.

“I’m a grown man, so I’m gonna do what I want to do,” Hill said. “If I want to go see my family, I’m gonna go see my family.”

Hill’s comments came after the Thunder dropped a tight 112-102 contest to the San Antonio Spurs. But much of his postgame talking points were reserved for the league’s stricter COVID-19 protocols which were announced earlier in the day by the NBA and the player’s union.

The new protocols call for pregame and postgame interactions with opposing players to be limited to only elbow or fist bumps. There is to be no socializing on the court afterwards with former teammates and friends.

“I don’t understand some of the rules,” Hill said. “We can sweat 48 minutes with a guy next to us for 48 minutes, but we can’t talk to them afterwards. It makes no sense.”

Players are also required to wear a mask at all times when they aren’t playing. That includes while on the bench and in the locker room.

Other new rules include not allowing non-team guests into hotel rooms when on the road. Also, the league is prohibiting players from leaving their hotel for non-team activities.

“They can’t tell me I have to stay in the room 24/7,” Hill said. “If it’s that serious then maybe we shouldn’t be playing. It’s life. No one’s gonna be able to just cancel their whole life for this game. That’s how I think about it.”

The NBA instituted the new protocols after seeing a rise in positive COVID-19 cases among its players and staff in the opening weeks of the season.

The Thunder were one of the first teams to fill this impact when their season opener in Houston was canceled because the Rockets had several players who had either tested positive for the virus or been exposed to it.

Since then the league has had to cancel several games because teams didn’t have enough players due to  COVID-19 and other unassociated injuries.

This week alone the NBA has already postponed five games because of coronavirus-related issues. It has also been reported that several players who had previously tested positive for coronavirus had recently tested positive for a second time.

These numbers have many believing the NBA will have to pause the season in order to get things under control and formulate a new plan, as it did last season when they went to the Disney World bubble to finish the campaign.

However, players such as Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are willing to do whatever is needed to keep the season on track.

“It’s what’s necessary, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of this COVID thing,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “If it means I have to wear a mask on the bench the whole time, it is what it is and I’m gonna do it. I want to get back to normal living, and whatever it takes to get back, I’m going to do it.”

Michael Kinney Media

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