WASHINGTON -- Tuesday night was the beginning of a new, albeit temporary, normal for media availability in the NBA.
Due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus, the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS all decided to restrict media access to locker rooms. Postgame interviews are now to be conducted in a press conference setting with at least six feet of space separating media from the players.
Instead of standing in a locker room full of players a reporter could approach to talk about the game that was just played, the media had to sit in a quiet room and wait for the players to come to them. The Wizards and Knicks sent roughly three players each along with their head coaches to field questions, with two sitting at the table at a time.
On the Knicks end, Frank Ntilikina sat down first and was then joined by Bobby Portis in the middle of the interview. Once Ntilikina stood up and left, Julius Randle took his place. Reporters would request a microphone and ask a question to either player sitting in front of them, rather than the five to six consecutive questions you'd see one player face in a scrum.
It was jarring, it felt slow-moving, and the general mood around this new interview format was that of sarcasm, but also had a level of understanding.
As reporters approached Bradley Beal's table to place their recorders, he shouted, "Stay back!" in a joking tone.
At the conclusion of Bobby Portis' availability, he told everyone in the room, "Wash your hands."
The jokes flew and will continue to fly as long as reporters have to abide by these new restrictions. As amusing as the situation can be, it limits the media's ability to gain insight from the players on everything that went into a game that just ended.
It'll be an adjustment as the NBA and NHL regular seasons wind down, but there are some who had grown accustomed to the press conference setting in their own backgrounds and won't feel the effects much at all.
"I'm used to it because it's the way it runs in France," Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina said. "It's kind of weird to get back to that situation but it's what we gotta do."
"It's fine," Knicks head coach Mike Miller said. "I was a college coach for a long time and this is how we did it all the time."
Productive or not for everyone involved, these restrictions aren't going away soon and they're in place because of the recommendations from health care experts. Nobody wants the virus to continue to spread, so this is just what has to happen before this health crisis gets resolved.
"We're just going with what the league wants us to do," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We all have to think about the safety of each other and this is the best option right now. Hopefully, it doesn't last long, I'd love to see you guys more."
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