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‘A return to normalcy’: Under new guidelines, Nets return to Sunset Park practice facility

'We want people to be able to watch sports,' says Cuomo

May 26, 2020 John Torenli
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The long road back to some sense of normalcy for the Brooklyn Nets began Tuesday when the team re-opened its HSS Training Center in Sunset Park for voluntary player workouts.

Idle due to the coronavirus pandemic since pulling off a thrilling 104-102 victory in Los Angeles against LeBron James and the Lakers on March 10, the Nets can now gather in small groups while following social distancing guidelines and turn their attention back to the yet-to-be-completed 2020-21 season.

“The organization will strictly follow the protocols outlined by the NBA and infectious disease experts to ensure that all precautions are taken in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment for players and staff,” the Nets said in a team-issued release Sunday.

The announcement came shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all local pro sports teams could reopen their long-dormant facilities and begin training for a potential return.

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“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo urged.

“Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports,” he added. “To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

The Nets, riding a three-game winning streak, including two straight under new Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, jumped at the chance to get their players back onto their state-of-the-art practice court in Brooklyn.

Though the facility was officially reopened Tuesday, individual Nets players aren’t expected to begin showing up until Wednesday, when they will be met with a strict set of guidelines.

Upon reopening training facilities in more than 20 locations around the nation earlier this month, the NBA insisted that a maximum of four players would be permitted inside the building at any one time.

Also, no head or assistant coaches are allowed to participate in these gatherings, group activity such as practices or scrimmages are prohibited, and players remain banned from using non-team facilities like health clubs or fitness centers.

Despite the restrictions, the Nets, some of whom will have to travel back to Brooklyn to rejoin their teammates and likely quarantine for a couple of weeks after doing so, have to be thrilled to see one another again face to face rather than via social media and group video chats.

Four of the team’s players, including superstar Kevin Durant, tested positive for COVID-19 back in March. But all four, three of whom have yet to be identified, have made full recoveries and should be eligible to work out with their fellow teammates.

The Nets (30-34), holding down the seventh of eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference postseason race at the time of the league-wide stoppage, could have a brand new look when or if they return to regular-season or postseason action later this summer.

Durant, who as a member of the Golden State Warriors was sidelined for the entire season due to an Achilles injury suffered during last year’s NBA Finals against the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, could be cleared to play in time for Brooklyn’s push toward its first-ever title.

Nets General Manager Sean Marks, shown here at the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park, will have plenty of big decisions to make regarding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving when or if the NBA season resumes later this summer. Photo: John Torenli/Brooklyn Eagle

Kyrie Irving, the player General Manager Sean Marks brought in alongside Durant last summer, played only 20 of the Nets’ first 64 games due to shoulder and knee injuries.

He could also be ready to get back into action alongside Durant, bringing Brooklyn’s high-priced tandem on the floor together for the very first time.

But a lot has to happen before Nets fans can begin dreaming of such scenarios.

The NBA is still trying to figure out whether it will wrap up the final 18 games of the regular season or shoot straight to the playoffs, which could feature as many as 24 teams rather than the standard 16.

Also, the league has entered discussions with Disney to potentially restart the campaign at the ESPN sports complex in Orlando, Florida, where the teams would have a “single site for an NBA campus for games, practices, and housing,” according to an NBA-issued release.

“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved,” NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass tweeted about the Orlando plan over the weekend.

“And we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.”

Whether they wind up at Disney World or back at Downtown’s Barclays Center, albeit without fans, the Nets can at least begin getting ready in earnest for their potential restart right here in Brooklyn.

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