Even if the NBA doesn't resume this season, and at this point no one knows for sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers believe it's time to start getting ready for the next one.
“Any minute that we can get working with each other is beneficial to us,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Wednesday.
Cleveland is one of a handful of teams planning to reopen practice facilities on Friday so players can work out as states across the country ease the social-distancing restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought sports to an abrupt halt in March.
Bickerstaff, who took over one of the league's youngest teams in February after John Beilein stepped down midway through his first season, said the Cavs have been in contact with local and Ohio officials to ensure they're following the proper protocol to protect personnel.
Only four players will be permitted at a time inside the team's facility in Independence, Ohio, which has been closed for nearly two months. The Cavs intend to hold two-hour sessions during which only one player and one developmental coach — wearing gloves and a mask — will be permitted at the same basket.
Bickerstaff said safety is paramount. The Cavs' medical staff will take the temperature of every person before entering the building, and there will be areas off limits. Also, the team intends to designate and mark basketballs for each player so there is no cross-over and everything will be meticulously cleaned.
“The league is recommending that they keep 12 feet between one another, so you’re there basically rebounding for a guy and passing to a guy,” Bickerstaff said during a Zoom conference call. “No one is being pressured to do anything. If people feel uncomfortable doing this, it’s not mandatory for them to show up. We’ve got some guys on staff that are willing to do it.”
The league is trying to ensure that no team has a competitive advantage by opening their facility. Many teams cannot, some of them possibly for several more weeks, because of local governmental regulations.
The situation remains fluid. Bickerstaff spoke to reporters shortly after he and other coaches were on a call with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has been invited by the National Basketball Players Association to speak to players in a call on Friday.
Bickerstaff remains hopeful the league will be able to enact a plan so the Cavs can get back on the floor. After months of tumult, they were beginning to click and had gone 5-6 under Bickerstaff, who feels his team was meshing and headed in the right direction.
“I'm excited about it,” he said. “Obviously the further things go, the longer people are separated, you have to do more creative things. With the way we were moving, I think this separation will make people more excited to get back together and I think we can springboard off that excitement whenever it is that we’re able to get back together.”
In the meantime, he's going to stay focused on coaching. His tenure as a stay-at-home teacher during the quarantine was short.
“It lasted about two days and the kids revolted,” he said with a laugh. “So I made the decision that was best for everybody was for me to leave them alone and let my wife handle that. I teach P.E. class now, I figure that’s in my wheelhouse.”