Cavaliers plan to open practice facility; social distancing restrictions set

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he doesn't believe players will converge from all over the country if Cleveland Clinic Courts opens as planned on Friday.


Part of the reason for that is Bickerstaff said the Cavs would be subject to a government-mandated 14-day quarantine when they return.


But Bickerstaff said the Cavs have spoken to state and local authorities and will open their practice facility unless they are notified of changes prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the requirements from the NBA is that only four players will be allowed inside the facility at one time.


"Our plan is to open our facility on Friday and have guys in there working individually," Bickerstaff said during a Zoom video conference with local media on Wednesday. "We've met with all of our staff, the front office has had conversations with the local and state government officials and making sure we're in compliance with all the rules that have been set forth from them, and from the league itself."


Bickerstaff said social-distancing guidelines will be in place, with "one coach at one basket with one player."


Bickerstaff confirmed that he and his front-of-the-bench assistant coaches will not be permitted at workouts, adding they can't "watch and yell and scream from the background." Members of the player development staff will primarily attend those sessions.


"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. He said those coaches will be wearing masks and gloves.


Other league directives, as reported by ESPN, include no group activity. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, the Cavs will only be permitted to use the gym, weight room and training room, with the hot/cold tub, kitchen and players lounge off limits. Basketballs will be numbered for a player's private use, Fedor said, and players' temperatures will be taken before they enter.


"This is voluntary. No one is being pressured to do anything," Bickerstaff said. "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."


According to reports, Cavs guard Collin Sexton is in Atlanta, center Andre Drummond in Miami and center Tristan Thompson in Los Angeles. Bickerstaff isn't expecting to see them.


"One of the things we're working with is the guidelines of when guys do come back, the 14-day quarantine the government is asking them to do," Bickerstaff said. "It doesn't make sense for them to come back and then have to wait the 14 days when some of them have facilities they can use, whether it can be at home facilities or private facilities that are just for them.


"I would doubt that many guys would come back during this time, especially when it's kind of the first phase of the rollout."


Bickerstaff said the NBA had a head coaches meeting on Wednesday, but the league remains in information-gathering mode as it tries to decide whether to restart the regular season or go straight to the playoffs. Games were suspended on March 11 after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert and then teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19.


"I think the way the league is and the purpose of competition, everybody wants to see a champion," Bickerstaff said. "Nobody wants to have an empty season, so to speak. Again, safety first, but if it's possible, I think it's worth it."


The Cavs are 19-46, the second-worst record in the league, but were 5-6 after Bickerstaff was promoted from associate head coach after John Beilein stepped down.


"Any minute that we can get working with each other is beneficial to us," Bickerstaff said. "It was 11 games, it's just, it's not enough. We know we were heading in the right direction, I truly believe that."


There has been discussion of bringing all 32 teams together in Las Vegas or Orlando, Fla., to finish the season and run the playoffs. Bickerstaff didn't share his opinion on that, saying, "Let the professionals make those decisions."


On a personal note, Bickerstaff said he has not taken up any new hobbies during the lockdown. He's been at home in Northeast Ohio with his wife, Nikki, and their three children watching Netflix, Hulu and "a bunch of college basketball," presumably in preparation for the NBA draft.


"I took on the hobby of a teacher and it lasted about two days and the kids revolted," Bickerstaff said. "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. So every day we have gym class at the house. I get about 30 minutes and then it's time for them to go back and be on their own."


Bickerstaff said the Cavs have kept in touch via FaceTime, Zoom and text messages and there is plenty of ribbing going on during the remote conversations. He meets with his assistants on Mondays and Thursdays. The strength and conditioning staff put together workout videos players could do at home and provided resistance bands and weight vests. They even held a ball-handling session on Zoom.


In conversations with the players, Bickerstaff said they believe they need 10 to 14 days to prepare to resume games. Even given the obstacles, Bickerstaff does not believe the Cavs' season is over.


"Maybe I'm being optimistic here, (but) I feel like there's some way we are all going to be able to come back from this. What it looks like, I have absolutely no idea," he said. "But there's just some part of me that believes there are a lot of intelligent people who are working to get this thing done and somehow, some way, they're going to get it done.


"I'm hopeful, but I genuinely believe that we're going to get an opportunity to play again."