The NBA league office is eliminating many restrictions on in-person evaluations and interviews, according to a memo to teams obtained by ESPN.
The NBA draft, originally scheduled for June 25, has been postponed several times to a tentative date of Nov. 18.
From Oct. 16 to Nov. 16, teams may schedule 10 visits of up to 4 1/2 hours with draft-eligible players for the purpose of in-person evaluations, interviews or medical evaluation, according to the memo. Each team will be allowed to send three team personnel and one physician to the city where the player resides. Players may be accompanied by up to three individuals, such as a family member, trainer or agent. Teams may meet only twice with any single player.
No later than 48 hours prior to each visit, the team must submit a certification form to the league office informing it of its plans. At the player’s discretion, multiple teams can be invited to evaluate an on-court workout simultaneously, provided health and safety protocols are observed. A pro-day-style workout of this nature will count toward all of the attending teams’ 10-visit limitation.
Within 72 hours prior to any visit, all participants including players, trainers, team personnel and physicians must undergo and return a negative COVID-19 result from an FDA-approved PCR test. Test results for team personnel must be provided to the league office for verification. Team personnel must also undergo a daily temperature check within two hours of interacting with any player, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, wear a face covering, refrain from physical interactions (i.e. shaking hands) and maintain physical distancing of six feet or more.
Teams can provide players with team-identified practice gear as long as combined retail value does not exceed $500.
The NBA informed teams in April that organizations are prohibited from conducting in-person workouts or interviews with draft-eligible players. Teams have been allowed to conduct virtual interviews with draft prospects, and as of mid-September were also allowed to watch live or recorded video of a draft-eligible player working out individually with a single coach or trainer.
As information gathering on draft-eligible players has mostly ground to a halt during the pandemic, NBA teams have been strongly encouraging the league office to reduce constraints on the pre-draft process to assist in their decision-making process, sources tell ESPN. The considerable amount of time between the suspension of the college men’s basketball season on March 12 and the date of the NBA draft in November has caused consternation among executives who are concerned about not having enough information to make informed choices, especially those picking at the top of the draft.
Over the next few weeks, prospects were scheduled to report to NBA markets for a revised version of the draft combine, featuring medical examinations, measurements, athletic testing, interviews and some basketball activity for 85 of the top prospects in the draft, conducted at the NBA team facility closest to each prospect. Basketball activity includes shooting drills and a “pro day workout” designed and executed by the prospect and a trainer of his choice, which will be filmed and distributed to all teams. As of now, it appears that several of the agencies representing the majority of first-round-caliber prospects are not planning on allowing their players to engage in any such basketball activity, while some have decided to advise their clients to skip the combine altogether.
Despite the restrictions placed on teams regarding the type of film they can consume of prospect workouts (one player, one trainer), loopholes had emerged in the form of third parties uploading footage to private websites of group workouts featuring competitive action or more rapid-paced workouts with multiple coaches.
Of major concern to teams will be competitive advantages that occur from the relaxing of pre-draft restrictions. Agents have long used the leverage of withholding medical information from teams to try to steer players to preferred draft destinations. Any opportunities agents have to schedule in-person meetings and workouts with friendly franchises can also act as deterrents to less attractive organizations if agents are permitted to pick and choose which teams to allow access, which this memo permits.