At least some hoops around the Twin Cities will have basketballs clanging off their rims.
The Timberwolves are joining other NBA teams in opening their practice facility to players for individual workouts starting Thursday, the team announced.
When the league postponed its season March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, it also ordered teams to keep their facilities closed until May 8 — a point at which it said teams in cities or states with relaxed stay-at-home orders could open doors to player for individual workouts.
The Wolves didn’t open their facility then because Minnesota was still under a stay-at-home order from Gov. Tim Walz. But with Walz allowing that order to expire Monday, the Wolves, after working with local health officials, are allowing their players to come back to work out.
“More than anything we just want to give them a little bit of joy,” team President Gersson Rosas said. “We want to give them a little bit of normalcy. We want them to have fun back in the gym, but we want to do it in a safe and responsible manner.”
To do that, the Wolves have strict guidelines in place. Players will have their temperature checked before entering the building and the team will trace the players’ contacts over the last 24 hours upon entry to the building to determine if COVID-19 cases were found from their locations. Other safety measures include:
• Only one player and coach will be allowed on the floor at a time, and they will maintain 12 feet of distance at all times.
• Players will wear masks at all times except when on the court. Staff members must wear gloves and masks at all times.
• The team will clean all spaces and equipment before and after workouts.
The Wolves emphasized the workouts are voluntary and are meant to help with getting players in front of a hoop at a time when those are in short supply, as gyms remain closed and public parks have lids on their baskets.
“It’s been well-documented that not everybody has access to courts,” vice president of basketball performance and technology Robby Sikka said. “So being able to come in and do something basketball-related is, frankly, a release for a lot of players, especially at a time where they’ve been cooped up for a while.”
Opening facilities for these workouts is a small first step the league is taking on the difficult road to reigniting a season postponed on March 11 after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
The league hasn’t made any firm decisions on when it might attempt to resume play, but when it does, Commissioner Adam Silver reportedly told the league’s board of governors that another positive shouldn’t shut down the league again. To that end, the Wolves are trying to mitigate risk as much as possible.
“Our guys are educated. … They understand the risks and understand all the situations that we’re living through right now,” Rosas said. “They’re making educated decisions. We’re confident our players are in a good place, and they want to be back and want to be in an environment they’re familiar with.”
Rosas said he was hopeful as new information becomes available, the league and the Wolves will be able to better control their environment to make it safe for group workouts.
One way the Wolves are helping garner more information is their participation in the Mayo Clinic’s antibody study. Leaguewide players are submitting blood tests to Mayo to better understand the body’s response to the virus. Center Karl-Anthony Towns donated $100,000 to Mayo Clinic to aid in research and testing. That was before Towns’ mother Jacqueline died of the virus in April.
“I give him and his family a lot of credit because they were going through this tragedy, they showed us the example …” Rosas said. “He knows this is another step moving forward, but like anything for all of us, in all walks of life, we’ve got a long way to go.”