MikeCheck: Grizzlies eye NBA potential guidelines to re-open practice sites May 8 for players

Grizzlies players have spent their unexpected idle time spread around the globe during the NBA’s hiatus, working on everything from college coursework to fashion to music.

They may soon get to regroup in Memphis to regain their basketball rhythm.

As various state and local governments modify stay-at-home mandates to ease restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA has outlined stringent health and safety guidelines that could allow some teams to re-open practice facilities May 8 for individual player workouts.

We are in the process of reviewing the criteria received from the League (Monday) regarding the potential to re-open our facilities for individual player workouts as of May 8th

Jason Wexler

The Grizzlies were among 30 NBA teams notified by the league of mandates that must be in place once players return to facilities in cities no longer subject to a government restriction. The NBA suspended its season March 11 after Utah Jazz All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were two of the first known league players to test positive for Coronavirus.

Grizzlies president Jason Wexler confirmed the team received NBA protocols to eventually allow player access to FedExForum facilities that had been off-limits since mid-March.

Jason Wexler speaking during a press conference
MEMPHIS, TN – JANUARY 24: Jason Wexler, President of Business Operation Memphis Grizzlies, speaks to the media during a press conference announcing the purchase of NBA Development League team by the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

“We are in the process of reviewing the criteria received from the League (Monday) regarding the potential to re-open our facilities for individual player workouts as of May 8th,” Wexler said in a statement released Monday to Grind City Media.

Team and league officials stressed the NBA’s May 8 target date to open some facilities for voluntary workouts has no bearing on whether, if or when the league will resume the season. In his most recent public comments, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during an April 18 media conference call that it was too soon to determine if, how or where games would be played.

Meanwhile, NBA guidelines for team facilities opening no sooner than May 8 would mandate:

  • No more than four players to be permitted at the facility at any one time.
  • No head or assistant coaches could participate in the workouts.
  • Group activity remains prohibited, including practices or scrimmages.
  • Players remain prohibited from using non-team facilities, including public health clubs, fitness centers or gyms.

The Associated Press reported additional guidelines in which the NBA is requiring teams to designate a ‘Facility Hygiene Officer’ to oversee new policies. Players using the facility would also have to enter alone and without family members or personal assistants.

The Grizzlies (32-33) were positioned in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings when play was suspended the eve of their March 12 game in Portland. Memphis had 17 regular-season games remaining at the time of the stoppage. The NBA would currently be in the second week of its opening-round playoff games.

Instead, Grizzlies players and staff have spent the time away working in various cities and countries to help communities cope with the crisis. In conjunction with efforts including the Grizzlies Community Assist Fund, power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and coach Taylor Jenkins helped to cater lunches for frontline medical workers at a local COVID-19 testing facility.

Grizzlies forward Gorgui Dieng’s foundation has raised money and awareness for medical supplies and food for organizations battling the virus in his native Senegal. Swingman Justise Winslow partnered with the Mid-South Food Bank to issue 14-day food boxes for families facing shortages. And this past week, point guard Ja Morant conducted a video conference call with more than 50 middle school students and volunteers for the Grizzlies TEAM Mentor Program.

Ja Morant warming up
MEMPHIS, TN – MARCH 7: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies warms up before the game against the Atlanta Hawks. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

“I do want to play right now,” said Morant, the frontrunner for NBA Rookie of the Year honors when the season was stopped. “But I feel like everything that’s going on right now is to protect everybody as long as we stay home and sort of stay away from each other. I can say I’m doing good, but I definitely want to be out there on the court.”

Opening team practice sites is simply a first, isolated step back to NBA normalcy for players in markets that have seen some level of progress with COVID-19 cases. Among the 22 states and Washington D.C. that have NBA franchises, Tennessee ranked 14th in total confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday evening.

According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 data tracker, Shelby County accounted for more than 2,300 of the state’s confirmed 9,698 cases, along with 45 of Tennessee’s 184 deaths. More than 1,000 of Shelby’s confirmed COVID-19 patients had recovered.

The NBA’s memo to teams arrived the say day Memphis and county government officials laid out plans to incrementally re-open the local economy and some businesses. Those plans are based on guidelines that track progress in the region’s COVID-19 cases and level of demands on medical facilities, among other factors.

They love talking basketball and how we can get better. It’s like a team session but on an individual level. You have this time on your hands to look in the mirror and really figure out how we can get better . . . for whenever we can all come together.

Taylor Jenkins

Many of the Grizzlies are spread throughout different regions of the country, but not disconnected. Jackson and Morant are among players who have primarily remained in Memphis the past six weeks.

But the full team has held video conference calls each Friday, and coaches and trainers have conducted individual Zoom or Skype sessions with players through the week.

Taylor Jenkins speaking to the team during a huddle
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 20: Head coach Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies speaks to his team during a time out during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images.

Jenkins believes the regular contact will prove helpful when everyone is cleared to return to Memphis for workouts, even while possibly starting out on an individual and voluntary basis.

“When I’ve talked one-on-one with guys and have an hour session with guys, they’re fully engaged,” Jenkins said recently of the video conferencing. “They love talking basketball and how we can get better. It’s like a team session but on an individual level. You have this time on your hands to look in the mirror and really figure out how we can get better . . . for whenever we can all come together.”

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.