NBA Follows CDC's Lead, Shortens Isolation Period for COVID-Positive Players' Return

The same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened required isolation time for someone who tests COVID-positive and presents no symptoms to five days, the NBA informed teams their players and staff can return in six days instead of 10, if they're asymptomatic and meet other standards.

Teams were informed of the policy updates Monday in a memo obtained by the Associated Press, and come as dozens of NBA players and coaches have tested positive, forcing them to miss several games in recent weeks.

Ninety-seven percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated, and at least 65 percent of eligible players have received a booster shot, according to the NBA.

The decision from the NBA comes after a change in NFL COVID policy was announced earlier this month, allowing vaccinated players to return to play after 10 days rather than having to test negative to return to their team.

The NBA told teams the change "reflects analysis of testing data that the league and its infectious disease experts and epidemiologists have gathered throughout the pandemic," according to the AP.

Twenty-seven NBA players entered the league's health and safety protocols Sunday, a new single-day high this season, and 205 players have been placed in the protocols over the course of the season, according to ESPN.

COVID Protocols, NBA Basketball
The NBA informed teams of changes to its COVID protocols, allowing for asymptomatic players to get back on the court sooner. Above, Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, right, disputes a foul call with referee Tre Maddox during the second half on Dec. 16, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona. Williams was one of two NBA coaches to enter the league's COVID protocols Monday. Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The CDC said evidence shows people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The NBA's changes were made in agreement with the National Basketball Players Association.

A pair of coaches — Phoenix's Monty Williams and Portland's Chauncey Billups — entered the NBA's health and safety protocols Monday.

The Blazers said the team will be coached by assistant Scott Brooks, a longtime head coach, during Billups' absence.

Phoenix plays host to Memphis on Monday, while Portland — with seven players in the protocols as well — hosts Dallas. It will be the Trail Blazers' first game since Dec. 21; their game that had been scheduled for Dec. 23 against Brooklyn was postponed because of virus issues decimating the Nets' roster. That was one of nine games postponed by the NBA so far this season.

Williams and Billups being off the sideline raises the total of head coaches in the NBA currently sidelined by virus issues to four, including the Los Angeles Lakers' Frank Vogel and Chicago's Billy Donovan. Vogel has missed the Lakers' last four games, and Donovan is missing his second consecutive game when the Bulls visit Atlanta on Monday.

"With Frank right now, it's a matter of testing and getting those negative tests in," said Lakers assistant coach David Fizdale, who is running the team in Vogel's absence. "But he's doing well health-wise. His spirit's right. Obviously, he's chomping at the bit to get back and start competing."

The count of players in the NBA's protocols remained around 120 on Monday afternoon, with no fewer than 63 players ruled out from among the seven games on the day's schedule because of virus-related issues.

Among the notable additions to the list is Olympic gold medalist Jayson Tatum, placed into protocols by the Boston Celtics.

Atlanta listed 12 players as out — 10 for virus reasons and two for injuries — for its game against Chicago, but the Hawks said guard Trae Young was cleared to return, making the announcement about 90 minutes before tipoff.

Teams that have been hit particularly hard by virus-related issues have been able to cobble together rosters over the last couple weeks primarily by signing players to 10-day hardship deals.

Tatum was one of 15 players — eight Celtics and seven Timberwolves — ruled out of the Boston-Minnesota game for virus issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

COVID Protocols, NBA Basketball
The NBA informed teams of new COVID protocols Monday, allowing for vaccinated, asymptomatic players to return to play faster. Above, the 75th-anniversary NBA logo is displayed before a game between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 8, 2021, in Miami, Florida. Michael Reaves/Getty Images