MIAMI — NBA arenas are about to be unlocked.
For the first time since the lockout began on July 1, NBA players are going to be welcomed back to their team facilities, said league spokesman Tim Frank. The league sent a memo to clubs Tuesday announcing the move, plus giving teams permission to begin speaking with agents at 9 a.m. Wednesday — though deals cannot yet be offered, and no contracts can be signed before Dec. 9.
Teams may host “voluntary player workouts” and physicals. Training camps will not open until Dec. 9, and the regular season is expected to begin Christmas Day with marquee matchups, including a Miami-Dallas rematch of last season’s NBA finals.
It’s not quite business-as-usual yet, but getting facilities open again is a huge boost for both teams and players.
The league also said owners, general managers, and coaches are now free to comment publicly about things such as contracts, plans for future free agent signings, the team’s prospects for the upcoming season, and other typical public comments that a team would make about players.
Since the NBA and its players reached a tentative agreement on how to end the lockout early Saturday morning, neither side has known if workouts would be permitted before camps begin. Such informal workouts are customary, typically beginning 2-3 weeks before camp as players begin getting themselves into the best possible condition.
When NFL camps opened after that league’s lockout earlier this year, a number of players — it seemed more than usual, anyway — were either injured in the preseason or rehabilitated from offseason surgeries at a slower pace than first anticipated.
One of the byproducts of the lockout is that it kept players from meeting with team physicians and trainers, as many had been used to for years, and teams tried to find the right balance between conditioning and protecting players from risking injury by doing too much too soon.