OKC’s Hill: Why play if stiffer protocols needed?

Sports

With the NBA implementing stricter health and safety guidelines amid a breakout of positive coronavirus tests and close contacts, Oklahoma City Thunder guard George Hill questioned some of the logic behind the protocols following a 112-102 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.

“We wanna play the game … but 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.”

Within the enhanced rules, pregame and postgame interactions with opposing players are limited to only elbow or fist bumps, with “extended socializing” to be avoided. Which means no postgame catching up with a former teammate or friend, previously a standard practice following games.

Also in the new guidelines: Hotel rooms are now closed off to non-team guests on the road. Along with that, movement of players and staff is limited on the road, with both now prohibited from leaving the hotel for non-team activities. Previously, players were allowed two guests in their rooms, including family and long-standing personal friends.

“I’m a grown man. I’m gonna do what I want to do. If I want to go see my family, I’m going to go see my family,” Hill said. “They can’t tell me I have to stay in a room 24/7. If it’s that serious, then maybe we shouldn’t be playing. But it’s life; no one’s going to be able to just cancel their whole life for this game.”

The NBA postponed four games this week because of COVID-19 issues, including three that involved the Boston Celtics. Along with Celtics, the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls are all dealing with significant issues in fielding the required eight players because of positive tests and contact tracing.

Players also are now required to wear a mask at all times they aren’t playing. There’s a brief “cool down” period in a designated area for when they have just come out of the game, but masks are required on the bench and in the locker room.

“It’s what’s necessary, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of this COVID thing,” Thunder guard Shai 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.”

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