The NBA and the Bulls are joining sports leagues around the world in taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
I concede that one of the most difficult parts of life around the NBA for me is trying to figure out which hand shake greeting is in style. There's variations with an open palm on a 45-degree angle, fingers around the thumb and sometimes a bumped shoulder. I was pretty good with the high five and the fist bump, but I'll admit I often find myself a few generations behind the latest trend.
It seems I finally have company.
"When I walk into the building on game day, the security guy usually gives me a pound," Bulls coach Jim Boylen was saying before Tuesday's game with the Cavaliers about his fist bump greeting. "Today I think I got a half elbow. So it's on people's minds."
It's the coronavirus and the precautionary measures the world has been taking to try to hold off the pandemic. It's resulted in isolations and quarantines around the world and now limitations on large gatherings in the U.S. Concerts have been cancelled and some basketball tournaments now have been either cancelled or are being played without fans in the arena.
The NBA this week joined other U.S. professional sports leagues in barring interviews in the team locker rooms. In addition, reporters have been set up at least six feet from interview subjects with the Bulls conducting interviews in a United Center cocktail club the NBA used for media interviews during All-Star weekend. Reporters should be used to it since the NBA doesn't allow locker room interviews during All-Star weekend.
Chuck Swirsky with BullsTV recaps tonight's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"We met about it in Minnesota (last week)," Boylen said. "We asked if there were any questions during that meeting. There were no questions at that time. If you watch the news it can be a little overpowering. I just saw that thing on New Rochelle, New York. The National Guard's going there, I think. I'm sure when you see that, that's a little bit frightening. But I think our guys are pretty good at focusing on doing their jobs.
"I hope we can all just kind of power through," said Boylen. "I hope it doesn't affect your (media) ability to do your jobs. We guys get pounds and knuckles and things like that and now guys are putting it out there and thinking, ‘Is that what I'm supposed to be doing?' Strange."
Zach LaVine remained out Tuesday with his quad strain, and he said he's trying to be aware and follow precautions and protocols, like his teammates.
"It gets scary because it's unknown," said LaVine. "Obviously if we're taking precautions like this it's getting more and more serious. I just hope everybody is staying safe, staying healthy, staying clean, washing hands and things like that. The main thing is it's unknown for sports and entertainment people, our little circle, and how (we) could be affected because you're around so many people. You go on flights all the time, have so many interactions. You see how easy it spreads. So you just want to make sure everyone is safe and doing the right thing. It's scary being in an unknown situation.''
Coby White didn't say he was scared, but precautions long have been a part of his life.
"I'm a germaphobe," White admitted. "I'm the type to shake your hand, then go straight to the bathroom and wash 'em. We're not around each other 24/7, but from what I've seen we wash our hands, we use hand sanitizers and our trainers do a good job of giving us hand sanitizers and making sure we wash our hands and we're staying on top of everything."
Bulls players were exchanging squirts of sanitizer on the bench during Tuesday's game.
"Just make sure after I do sign autographs and stuff like that, make sure I use hand sanitizer and wash my hands and get rid of the germs," said White. "Make sure I stay on top of that. But for the most part I'm gonna keep my same thing. If fans want autographs, I'll sign some autographs. Probably a little more fist bumps than hand shakes, but other than that, that's about it. We talk about it a little bit, about how crazy it is and how it came out of nowhere and how it's spread so fast like in Italy and stuff. Other than that, it's not like a topic of the day or anything like that. I didn't imagine my NBA season like this, but whatever."
Some countries, like Italy, were playing games without fans and recently stopped games. It would certainly be an unusual experience to play in an empty arena.
"I was close one time," joked Boylen. "I coached in the consolation game of the Diamond Classic in Hawaii at like 11 in the morning. I think it was my wife, my two daughters and one of my assistant coaches' wives behind our bench. So that's about the closest I've been to it. So no I have not."
"Nah, I haven't, other than going to the Y and hooping," White added. "It would be interesting if that happens, but regardless we still have to come out and compete and come out and play."
Wendell Carter Jr. said it would take a lot from the game. Plus, many believe home court advantage is the most impactful in the NBA because it's an energy game fueled by fans' enthusiasm.
"It's like what are we playing for?" said Carter. "No one in there, no one screaming. That makes the atmosphere great. It'd feel like we'd just be scrimmaging. I don't like that feeling."
Tomas Satoransky, a Prague native who has played around the world, has played in those empty arena. Though more because of mischief and mayhem than maladies.
"A couple of times in my career," said Satoransky. "Euroleague fans sometimes are crazy. They throw things court, especially the Turkish fans (so they get barred in subsequent games by the league). Playing without fans is a weird feeling. You start to hear what the other coach is saying to their players and what (opponents) actually say in the game. I wouldn't have a problem; usually stuff (that's happened) in Turkey or Greece."