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As virus rages, WNBA season details still on hold

Dearica Hamby is guarded by Alyssa Thomas last season. Ethan Miller/Getty Images photo.
Dearica Hamby is guarded by Alyssa Thomas last season. Ethan Miller/Getty Images photo.

Days before WNBA players are to leave for training camp, the shapeshifting COVID-19 pandemic is keeping some season details from being finalized.

Team rosters have been mostly set for the year, and athletes are currently being tested for the presence of coronavirus. But the start date and schedule for the 22-game slate is still being decided, as is the protocol for replacing any athletes who are injured or become sick during the season.

“The WNBA has still been talking to the medical personnel and getting all that sorted out,” Indiana Fever General Manager Tamika Catchings said. “The medical personnel is putting together – we just got a document – so stay tuned for that. I’m sure the WNBA will come out and speak on that.”

“(The season will begin in) later July. I know we have not got our schedules yet; it is coming very soon.”

The league is weighing several start date possibilities for both camp and the regular season, which will be played in a quarantined location, in the face of rapidly changing pandemic data.

Terri Jackson, Executive Director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, said testing will be finished before athletes leave for Bradenton, Florida next week.

“Testing should be completed, with results back before players travel on July 6,” Jackson said, adding that she “believes” training camp will begin July 10.

The WNBA did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Nine players opted out of the season – some for personal health concerns. Two more were injured and ruled out for the year. Chicago Sky guard Sydney Colson tested positive for the virus last week, and will not travel with the team to camp.

As 25 NBA players and 10 team staff members have tested positive going into their own bubble-location postseason, there are expected to be others in the WNBA that will test positive for COVID-19.

The NBA begins their season in Florida July 30, and athletes are being tested for the virus every other day. Only those with three years or less of NBA service may be signed.to replace injured or ill players.

As the coronavirus pandemic has surged in the U.S. over the past 10 days, Florida has been particularly hard-hit. Yesterday almost 10,000 new cases were reported in the state – a single-day record. The rapidly-changing numbers have created a lot of uncertainty.

Mike Cound, founder of the Cound Group sports agency, said he is waiting to find out the protocol for possible player replacement, as some of his clients are “chomping at the bit” to get on to a team.

“What’s probably going to happen is it will be a regular free agency,” Cound said. “I’m very confident they’re going to have a system where they quarantine someone for whatever number of days medical professionals deem appropriate when they come in – probably for a maximum of seven days.”

Players were not required to report to their team cities, but most did for voluntary workouts. There they underwent routine physicals and participated in individual sessions with assistant coaches. At least one team had a socially-distant team meeting. Every team has participated in group Zoom meetings.

Four squads – the Dallas Wings, the Minnesota Lynx, the Phoenix Mercury and the Seattle Storm – have had no players injured or opt out of the season.

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