NBA, NBPA in talks for more COVID-19 testing due to increase in positive cases


The NBA is handling its surge.

The NBA's approach to COVID-19 testing is detailed by Adrian Wojnarowski. (1:21)

7:44 PM

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are in talks about increased testing for vaccine-eligible players and staff, league sources told ESPN.

A total of 60 players have entered health and safety protocols this season, including 43 in the past two weeks. The highest number of players entered protocols on Tuesday was thirteen. The previous high was four on Dec. 1, Dec. 4, and Monday.

The Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets, and Brooklyn Nets have all been hit with an outbreak.

The NBA and NBPA are talking about testing, but it is expected that there will be increased testing around the Christmas and New Year's holidays, league sources said.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, the NBA and NBPA agreed that every player and Tier 1 staffer would be tested daily from November 28 to 30.

league sources said that there will be more booster requirements for staff beyond Tier 1 staffers. The NBA has imposed a Friday deadline for players who are eligible to receive booster shots, with those who don't face stricter protocols, including game-day testing.

The NBA noted in a previous memo that staff who have not yet received a booster would not be allowed to interact in person with players, travel with the team or otherwise continue as tier 1 personnel.

Team executives and team health officials have in recent days described a sense of frustration regarding players who have tested positive but are not ill, as these team officials said they are hopeful that the league can one day reach a point when only players who are feeling ill will be out.

The NBA is committed to following guidance from the CDC, WHO and its own infectious disease experts, but sources said that those who are not showing symptoms could still transmit the virus.

The NBA wouldn't enter the season testing all players who are vaccine-free, even though some team executives and team health officials were concerned about that. Keeping track of the virus amid potential breakthrough cases would be a challenge, these team officials said. The team officials said that daily testing in a largely vaccine-free league likely wouldn't receive enough buy-in to be approved or enforced.

One Western Conference GM said that he was fine with the lack of daily testing for all players if we understood the risk factors.

The league is hopeful that more players and staff will get booster shots, but it would seem unlikely that the league would mandate them, according to league sources. The NBA reached a 98% vaccination rate without mandating it, and there's hope that it could do the same with booster shots.

Many team executives and team health officials say that the recent increase in attendance would cause a shutdown, though more postponements are expected. The NBA was able to finish the season and crown a champion even though there were several postponed games, according to multiple NBA general managers.

There's growing concern among team health officials and team executives who see other leagues facing their own outbreak and game postponements or cancellation.

One Western Conference head athletic trainer said that they are pretty much defenseless now.

Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to the report.