John Wall Hugs Bradley Beal, Says He Will 'Take My Fine' Over NBA COVID Rule Breach

Houston Rockets guard John Wall suggested he would have no problems with being fined by the NBA for breaching coronavirus protocols after hugging former teammate Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal played together in Washington for eight seasons and on Tuesday night crossed paths for the first time since the former was traded to the Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook at the beginning of last month.

At the end of the game, Wall approached Beal and hugged him, contravening the league's COVID-19 protocols, which stipulate players must keep interactions to a minimum before and after the game.

Speaking after the game, Wall acknowledged breaking the rules and that his actions were likely to result in a fine.

"I'll take my fine," the first overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft said when asked about his decision to hug Beal, as per The Athletic.

He added: "Brad[ley] is my brother no matter what [...] I told him, keep being himself and keep leading."

On January 12, the NBA announced stricter COVID-19 guidelines aimed at minimizing interaction with opposing players before and after the game.

The rules, which are in force indefinitely, ban "extended socializing" after games, ruling out the tradition of players mingling with former teammates or friends.

Players are also required to wear a mask at all times they aren't playing, including while on the bench and in the locker room.

The new protocols also severely limit movement of players and staff during road trips. Both are now prohibited from leaving their hotel for non-team activities and players are barred from having non-team guests in their room.

Houston Rockets guard John Wall
John Wall #1 of the Houston Rockets embraces Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards following a game at the Toyota Center on January 26 in Houston, Texas. Carmen Mandato/Getty

Players were previously allowed to host up to two guests in their rooms, provided they were family members or close friends.

The first major league to halt proceedings because of the coronavirus outbreak in March last year, the NBA was widely praised for its handling of the pandemic and successfully completed the regular season and the playoffs in a bio-secure bubble in Orlando, Florida.

The NBA hoped to restore some semblance of normality when the current regular season began in late December, with teams following a traditional schedule involving home and road games and players no longer in a secluded environment.

The new approach, however, has resulted in a swathe of games being postponed because of coronavirus-related issues. At the time of writing, the NBA has been forced to postpone 22 games as teams have struggled to have the required minimum of eight players available on game day because of positive tests or contact tracing protocols.

On Tuesday night, the Wizards were missing six players because of health and safety protocols and their 107-88 loss in Houston was only their 13th game of the season, three fewer than any other team in the Eastern Conference.

The Memphis Grizzlies are the only other team to have played just 13 games this season.

Wall isn't the first player to breach the new coronavirus protocols on the court. On Sunday, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo looked to hug and exchange jerseys after the Nets' 128-124 win over the Heat, only for a security guard to intervene and separate the two.

Heat security had to break up Kyrie and Bam Adebayo from hugging after the game. pic.twitter.com/8rViHGY2Et

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 24, 2021

When the teams met two days later, Irving eventually managed to hand his jersey to Adebayo, but the latter couldn't return the favor.

Earlier this month, Irving was fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating its health and safety protocols after he was spotted attending a family celebration indoor while not wearing a mask.

The NBA added Irving would be docked pay for each game he missed during his five-day quarantine period.