The NBA is making a minor change to its coronavirus testing policy in the name of keeping players on the floor, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Under the current rules, an inconclusive test would keep a player out for the next 48 hours. The obvious trouble with that rule is that it could keep a player out of a key game without actually having tested positive for the virus. Approximately one-in-1,000 coronavirus tests return an inconclusive result.
Under the new rule, players will be able to return within 24 hours, provided they test negative immediately after the inconclusive test and then do so again 60 minutes before tip-off of their game the following day. The previous system required negative tests in successive 24-hour periods, keeping a player out for at least two days. The Sacramento Kings went through this a week ago with a player, according to Wojnarowski, and the obvious concern is that it could have happened again in a playoff setting through no fault, but simple flaws in the testing process.
This change in policy has no impact on positive test results. It only helps get players with inconclusive results back on the court quicker. While the NBA‘s exact testing schedule and policy aren’t known, it would appear unlikely that an inconclusive result would be able to keep a player out of a big game under these rules provided the testing schedule aligns with the player’s game schedule.
The last several rounds of testing in the bubble have yielded no positive results, and the NBA has successfully managed to restart its season in Orlando. The specter of possible positive tests still looms over the entire enterprise, but given the success the league has had so far, it felt comfortable amending its policy slightly in the interest of leniency and protecting the on-court product.