The NBA and the NBPA have agreed to revised rules regarding the signing of replacement players amid the league-wide COVID-19 outbreak that has led to multiple cancelled games and countless players forced out due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. These new rules will go into effect immediately and last at least through Jan. 19, according to Charania.
Now, teams will be allowed to sign one replacement player for every player under contract that tests positive for COVID-19. The league will require teams to sign at least one player once two have tested positive. When a team has three players test positive, they will have to sign at least two players, and when they have four or more positive tests, they must sign at least three replacement players, according to Charania, though if a team is capable of putting 13 healthy players on the floor, there will reportedly be no requirements. Another important change to note is that two-way players will no longer be capped at 50 appearances with their NBA team during the season. They can now play in as many games as their team wants.
The previous system of teams applying for hardship exemptions has posed several significant problems. The most significant is that teams are having to play games with far fewer players than they normally would, and with many of their best players out, they’ve had to rely on bench or two-way players to fill key roles. Many of the players teams are now signing are currently at the G-League Showcase in Las Vegas, which poses its own COVID-19 concerns as players are at risk of infection there or while traveling to an NBA destination.
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the country, there is no perfect solution to filling out NBA rosters. For now, all the league can do is give teams more flexibility and postpone games when that isn’t enough. Short of another league-wide stoppage, relaxed roster guidelines and stricter COVID protocols are the best the NBA can do.