On Friday, May 8, the NBA will reportedly allow teams in areas with relaxed stay-at-home guidelines to reopen their practice facilities to players for individual workouts. While this is a meaningful step towards eventually resuming the NBA season, it poses a major problem in regards to competitive balance. Not all teams play in areas that have relaxed, or will soon relax, their guidelines. That would theoretically give teams in certain areas a major advantage if the season is eventually finished.
While nothing is set in stone quite yet, a number of teams are beginning to plan for the reopening of their own facilities even in areas that have maintained strict social distancing protocols. The Los Angeles Lakers, for instance, are planning to reopen their facility on Saturday, May 16, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, and will work with the proper government agencies to ensure that it will be safe to do so. The Houston Rockets are now planning for Monday, May 18 as the date of their reopening, according USA Today’s Mark Medina. That is in accordance with Texas governor Gregg Abbott’s order to delay the reopening of all gyms from May 8 to May 18.
A number of other teams are planning for some point next week, according to USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt, though they have not set exact dates. Those teams include the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.
The team currently the furthest away from reopening would be the Golden State Warriors, as San Francisco will be under stay-at-home guidelines until at least May 31. While the Warriors are essentially out of playoff contention and a resumption of the regular season is unlikely, their situation points to the larger problem with this situation. If the playoffs were ultimately played with certain teams having significantly more access to their facilities than others, it would call into question the fairness of the games on the court.
No teams can work together as a group yet, and individual players have vastly different access to equipment. There is no telling which teams are in the best position to resume the season, but ideally, the NBA will find a way to ensure that all of them at least have the same chance to get back into game shape. As of now, no plan for uniformity on that front has been presented yet.