NBA tells head coaches they can ditch masks during games if they’re fully vaccinated

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Just in time for the playoffs, the NBA told its head coaches on Saturday that they could work without a mask during games if they had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Assistant coaches and players should always wear masks in the bench area. Head coaches may choose to skip masks after pre-match presentations until half-time and then again after half-time until the end of the match.

The memo, sent out on Saturday morning just hours before the opening of the playoffs between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks and obtained by the Associated Press, also said that head coaches will be required to wear masks during halftime, during warm-ups and filming before departure. of the third quarter and post-game. If opposing coaches choose to meet briefly on the field after a match, masks are encouraged.

Coaches have had to wear masks throughout games all season, and some have even received calls from the NBA with a reminder to be more committed to keeping the masks on their noses and mouths. But for the playoffs, the league said it was making the mask change “to make it easier to coach in-game duties, and in light of vaccination rates among NBA head coaches,” as well as Recent updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coaches will still need to participate in NBA testing regimes, the league said.

Meanwhile, for the playoffs, the NBA will see its biggest crowds of the season.

Miami announced on Saturday that, as of Game 3 of its series against Milwaukee on Thursday, it has increased its capacity to 17,000 fans, double what it planned to have for the start of the playoffs.

The Heat said the NBA, along with the local government, has approved a seat increase and will stay in place for the remainder of the playoffs.

“You are just starting to see more and more signs that things are moving,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Saturday. “It brings you a lot of hope, just in general.”

The 17,000 fans represent approximately 85% of the building capacity in Miami. The Boston Celtics have said they are increasing the participation limits for Game 3 of their series against Brooklyn on Friday, and that for Game 4 on May 30, they will be at “near full capacity.”

New York is set to host up to 15,000 fans for its Madison Square Garden playoff games against Atlanta, with that series starting Sunday, and Utah is set to welcome 13,000 fans to begin its series against Memphis, which also begins on Sunday.

“You don’t realize how much you miss them. … It’s just great to see things back to normal,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.

In Los Angeles, public health officials were offering an additional incentive – a raffle for two season tickets to Los Angeles Lakers games next season – for those who get the shot this weekend.

Other changes could come as the playoffs go on. The NBA hasn’t ruled out the possibility of having buildings capable of returning to 100% capacity for the NBA Finals in July, and the league plans to assess whether teams can increase their trips from the second. qualifying round.

“We are making progress. We are moving in the right direction,” said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer. “Still a lot of work to do with the virus and COVID, but for our fans and for our players to experience this competition, the basketball playoffs in person … it’s really exciting.”

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