Playing in the NBA these days seems a bit like visiting George Bluth in prison: “No touching!”
In response to increasing numbers of positive COVID-19 tests, the NBA announced last week that it was going to get serious about enforcing its rules against on-court fraternization. Hugs, handshakes and high fives aren’t allowed, in an effort to limit unnecessary contact between players on opposing teams. (Fist and elbow bumps are just fine, though, as if the only way to transmit the virus is by touching palms.) To ensure players were following the rules, the league instructed security staff to intervene when players got too friendly.
That leads us to Saturday night’s Nets-Heat game in Brooklyn. After the final buzzer, longtime friends Kyrie Irving and Bam Adebayo attempted to swap jerseys but were thwarted by an eagle-eyed security guard.
Adebayo hinted after the game that he was able to get his slick pink-and-blue jersey to Irving anyway, which left Kyrie responsible for holding up his end of the bargain when the two teams met again on Monday night.
Kyrie was ready as soon as the buzzer sounded. He took off his jersey and motioned to get Adebayo’s attention. The same security guard who broke up Saturday’s interaction was close by, gently reminding Adebayo and Kevin Durant to keep it moving, but Kyrie made a quick handoff and headed for the locker room before anyone could intervene. As Adebayo went off toward the visitors’ dressing room, he stuffed the gift under his jersey, as if to prevent a security guard from confiscating it.
Adebayo's being so cagey about the jersey swap is a little weird, considering I can’t find any NBA rule prohibiting the trading of jerseys this year. The NFL outright banned on-field jersey swaps this season as a coronavirus precaution. (Because it’s the NFL, the off-field jersey swap was quickly transformed into a sponsorship opportunity.) The NBA doesn’t appear to have any such policy, and, if it did, there’s no way Adebayo would have gotten away with taking Kyrie’s jersey. He walked most of the length of the floor before he decided to put it under his shirt, and his idea of hiding it was to create a giant misshapen lump on his torso. He wasn’t exactly subtle.
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