MIAMI — The NBA took tiny steps toward a return to normalcy Friday, as a small number of practice facilities reopened for workouts and at least one team received permission from the league to test players and staff for the coronavirus.
Cleveland and Portland were open for players who wanted to get voluntary workouts in, with Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman among the first to be back on an NBA practice court since the league ordered those facilities closed seven weeks ago.
“Great to be back,” Osman wrote on Instagram, as he took a selfie standing in what appeared to be an otherwise-empty practice gym.
And the Orlando Magic revealed that they have been authorized by health officials in Orange County, Florida to test players and staff. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Orange County has more than enough testing resources for health-care workers and asymptomatic individuals.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be able to follow suit and test players and staff with the approval of local officials soon as well. Lakers players were tested several weeks ago and two players were positive; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week that all residents of Los Angeles County are now eligible for free testing.
The NBA has yet to implement a full-scale testing program for all teams, a step that must be taken if there is going to be a return to play this season. But the league has also advised teams that they may be permitted to test, with NBA approval, if local health officials say “robust” testing already exists for at-risk healthcare workers in that community and other conditions are met.
The NBA, like other major U.S. leagues, also is trying to avoid any sense that it is jumping the testing line by getting players tested in cities where necessary resources are scarce. Orange County health officer Dr. Raul Pino told the Magic that they can “rest assured” that would not be the case in Orlando.
Toronto said it would welcome players back for workouts starting next week. The Raptors will be using rules even more strict than the NBA mandates right now; only one player will be allowed in the facility at a time, and the court will be the only place open to players. Everything else, including locker rooms and weight rooms, will remain closed.
Other NBA teams, when they open, may have as many as four players in the facility at once.
Denver and Sacramento are among the teams planning to reopen for workouts Monday and many more are expected to effort toward reopening facilities for the voluntary workouts in the coming days; roughly half the league could have players working out next week barring any major setbacks or policy changes.
Spanish soccer: It was a beautiful sight for soccer fans: Lionel Messi juggling a soccer ball again.
The Barcelona star hadn’t been on a training field for nearly two months, since Spain went into a lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But he and other Spanish league players returned on Friday to individual training sessions as their teams began preparing for soccer’s return.
Barcelona, Sevilla and Villarreal were among the first clubs back after the Spanish government this week loosened some of the restrictions that had been in place in the hard-hit southern European nation.
Atlético Madrid is set to resume its activities on Saturday and Real Madrid’s players will be back at their training camp on Monday. The league is expected to restart in June without spectators.
UFC: UFC 249 will serve as the first major sporting event to take place since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country nearly two months ago. The bouts Saturday night in Jacksonville — the main event is set for pay-per-view — are expected to draw a large viewing audience considering the sports-craved nation has seemingly grown tired of replays and video game events.
Lightweight contenders Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will headline the mixed martial arts card behind closed doors at Veterans Memorial Arena.