The Toronto Raptors have announced that, starting Monday May 11, they will be offering “limited access” to the OVO Athletic Centre practice facility to current members of the team.
MLSE and the Raptors have made this decision in conjunction with local government and public health authorities, and they tell us that “strict protocols” are in place to ensure this decision is safe and controlled.
According to the team, only the main practice court will be accessible to players, in order to facilitate shooting drills; since other conditioning, like weight training, can be done safely at home, the team is focusing on simply giving players space to get shots up. Locker rooms will also remain closed, so there’ll be some sweaty car rides home too!
Although NBA guidelines indicate that teams can have up to four players and one coach in the gym, the Raptors will only allow one player, accompanied by one coach, to practice at a time to ensure social distancing. Everyone entering the building will be checked for symptoms and have their temperature taken; once inside, everyone will wear gloves and masks, with the players only allowed to take them off while working out.
The facility will be thoroughly cleaned after each player and coach leaves the gym, before the next player arrives.
I can’t decide whether or not this is good news. On the one hand, as someone who is stuck inside and would really love to go down to the nearby schoolyard and get some shots up, I get it. And it does seem like a positive step forward, towards normalcy.
But I can't help but think that it’s too soon. I look at all the measures listed above and I think, hey, it sounds like they’re making it as safe as possible! But then I also think, if they have to do all this just to let one player take some shots? That tells me that this really isn't safe yet; all of that effort to ensure safety means that it’s too soon.
I also understand the fine line the NBA is walking here. It wants to give fans hope that there can still be a season, and players being able to practice helps foster that hope. It also wants to let the general public know how cautious and careful they’re being, and that while they’re letting players back into gyms, they’re still being as strict as possible to protect everyone.
Perhaps two months of staying inside has made me cynical. I hope this isn’t just a PR exercise, and that it truly is safe, and that this is something worthwhile for players. But at the same time, I’m still not optimistic that it’s a great idea, or that there is a season to be saved.