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May 26, 2020

Sixers will re-open practice facility Wednesday after New Jersey eases restrictions

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Stock_Carroll - 76ers Sixers Training Facility Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia 76ers training facility near the Camden, NJ waterfront.

The Sixers will re-open their practice facility in Camden on Wednesday following the easing of restrictions for professional sports teams in the state of New Jersey, the team announced in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Following today’s announcement by Governor Murphy," the team said in a statement, "the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey will begin a phased reopening tomorrow for voluntary, individual workouts. Players and essential staff will adhere to strict safeguards in accordance with NBA guidelines.”

Governor Phil Murphy revealed Tuesday morning that the state of New Jersey would be lifting restrictions on professional sports teams within the state, clearing a path for both the Sixers and Flyers to return to practice.

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"Professional sports teams in NJ may return to training and even competition," Murphy said, "if their leagues choose to move in that direction. We have been in constant discussions with teams about necessary protocols to protect the health and safety of players, coaches, and personnel."

The Sixers and Flyers, who practice in Camden and Voorhees respectively, now both have official clearance to get back to work, though as with any other business there are restrictions that will be in place until further notice.

NBA teams have been cleared to open their doors starting on May 8th, and the Sixers join 21 other teams — the Cavaliers, Blazers, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Heat, Magic, Bucks, Raptors, Hawks, Pacers, Jazz, Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Pelicans, Thunder, Timberwolves, Suns, Nets, and Hornets — who have opened their doors for individual workouts.

This begins a slow build-up to real practices and games for the Sixers as dictated by NBA guidelines, which are still in place as Philadelphia gets going. Activities that require a second person to be within 12 feet of each other (as in a weightlifter/spotter situation) are prohibited, and no more than four players are permitted at a facility at a given time. Full practices and scrimmages remain banned at this time, as does the use of "non-team facilities" for workout purposes, though all of this will continue to be reevaluated moving forward.

So far, the Sixers have done their best to work around the restrictions and have provided what they can for their players under the rules laid out by the NBA. They've been able to provide bikes, elliptical machines, and resistance bands to their players, but other items (including basketball hoops, most notably) fall under the category of salary-cap circumvention.

"I will definitely make sure our players are not at a disadvantage when the season starts," GM Elton Brand said recently. "I have backup plans ready and available for our guys when they need it, and when it's deemed safe, and if they want it...we're looking, I'm looking at everything to make sure that the players get what they need."

June is expected to be a month of change for the NBA, with individual workouts eventually turning into group practices and mandatory sessions involving the coaches, all leading up to what league insiders expect will be a return to game action in mid-late July. 

On May 24th, the NHL released a new set of guidelines for their teams to begin working toward a return to "Phase 2" in early June. In order to use team facilities, players would be expected to complete non-contact, properly-distanced practice sessions of no more than six players. In addition to a requirement of using masks, "when entering or leaving the Club facility and while inside the Club facility where social distancing cannot be maintained." 

In areas where PPE masks are required by local health regulations during exercise, the NHL says teams can inquire about seeking an exemption in order to practice or contact the NHL to evaluate alternative options for their team.

What this means for the rest of New Jersey is currently unclear. Last week, Murphy rolled out a multi-stage return plan for the state, and New Jersey has largely moved past maximum restriction into "Stage 1" restriction. The restrictions apply not just to businesses, but to individuals, as all workers who can work from home are expected to continue working from home even if businesses in their industry are reopening. Stage 2 of Murphy's plan will include expanded retail openings, safeguarded restaurants with outdoor seating, museums, and more, according to the state.

As people around the country attempt to find some semblance of normalcy again, sports will lead the way. 

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