MINNEAPOLIS -- Moving in line with the majority of teams across the NBA in states where it fits under the current guidelines, the Minnesota Timberwolves will open their practice facility Thursday, May 21, to players for voluntary workouts, using these strict protocols:
- One coach and one player are allowed on the floor at a time, and they must maintain 12 feet of distance between them.
- Workouts will be limited to 45 minutes.
- The locker room, weight room and other areas of the building will remain closed.
- Staff members will wear gloves and masks at all times. Players will wear masks except for when they’re on the floor.
- A thorough cleaning of all spaces and equipment will take place before and after each player uses the facility.
- Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
- Contact tracing will be administered upon entry.
- Players will receive to-go meals from KZ Provisioning, as has been the case while the league has been on lockdown.
- No media, public or general staff will be allowed into the building.
The league is taking an extra-cautious approach in the early stages of its re-opening. Dr. Robby Sikka, the Timberwolves’ vice president of basketball performance and technology, finds that to be a prudent approach.
“Before you start basically cutting back on certain restrictions, it’s better to be more conservative to start, it’s better to be extra cautious,” he said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “I think the league has been exceptional in coming up with really data-driven protocols, so the league has done a great job of outlining stuff for us. And teams are very standardized in how they’re approaching those details. Nobody wants to be somebody that deviates, and nobody wants to be one that cuts corners on this. This is a global pandemic. There’s no place for cutting corners.”
While plans for a league restart involving setting up a one-stop shop for the remainder of the season in Orlando pick up steam, Wednesday’s Timberwolves announcement isn’t meant to be viewed as a major step in that direction.
“This is simply about giving players a safe place to shoot and come and work out more than it is about anything else,” Sikka said. “It’s about safety and wellness first, and if we do that right, then we give ourselves a chance to have whatever comes after that.”
The Timberwolves are careful not to put a timeline as to where things could progress from here. Gersson Rosas, the team’s president of basketball operations, said at some point there will be a training camp, a league restart and a return to play, but that won’t be rushed. Sikka is encouraged by how much has been learned about the virus, but “there’s a long way to go for us in learning about the implications of this disease.”
“We don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” he said. “People ask all the time what are the long-term implications of coronavirus, and the reality is we’ve only known about this virus for a handful of months. So projecting six months down the line, we don’t know. We haven’t had people who have had it for six months. So speculating on those kinds of things, it’s really hard to do because we just don’t have the answers.”
Sikka, the Timberwolves and Mayo Clinic have partnered to lead a league-wide antibody study. Minnesota has been affected greatly by the virus, as Jacqueline Towns — Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother — died last month after contracting the coronavirus.
Rosas noted Karl-Anthony Towns and his family set an example for the organization by partnering with Mayo Clinic back in March to help increase testing capacity. Rosas said the 24-year-old all-star center has “shown an incredible amount of character and toughness” through all of this.
Rosas said the facility can serve as a “safe haven” for the players moving forward.
“I know that’s the case for Karl, and it’s little steps moving forward,” Rosas said. “But he’s been incredible through this whole process. He knows this is another step moving forward, but like anything for all of us, in all walks of life, we’ve got a long way to go. This is just a new step moving forward for us.”