NBA, NFL making moves on practice return

James Harden's Houston Rockets will be one of the first NBA clubs to reopen practice facilities

NBA teams are expected to get the go-ahead to reopen practice facilities for limited use as early as Friday, less than two months after the coronavirus outbreak forced the suspension of the season.

The NFL has set protocols for reopening team facilities and told its 32 teams on Wednesday to have them in place by May 15 as American professional sports leagues advance their planning for how and when they can return to action.

Four Major League Soccer teams took the first small step toward returning to play by allowing players to use team training fields for individual workouts and the National Women's Soccer League has allowed its teams to do likewise.

UFC will host the first of three shows in a week without fans in Jacksonville, Florida, starting on Saturday while NASCAR is set to resume races behind closed doors on May 17.

With head and assistant coaches barred and group training forbidden, the NBA workouts are unlikely to resemble business as usual.

However, they would be a step towards normalcy for a league whose season was suspended in dramatic fashion on March 11.

Modifications to stay-at-home orders could play a factor in which teams can resume workouts, with some US states reopening and others maintaining strict social distancing procedures.

Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets are among those considering opening facilities this week, according to media reports, with stay-at-home orders in Texas and Colorado having expired.

The NFL, in a memo obtained by the media, outlined certain criteria and said the first phase of a return to play would involve the gradual return of non-playing employees to facilities.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also noted that the league is actively working on the next phase of reopening, which would involve more staffers and, importantly, players.

While the gradual reopening of NFL facilities would be unlikely to resemble a franchise in full swing, the move would mark a critical step for the league as it hopes to kick off its regular season on time.

NFL's 2020 season is poised to begin on September 10, with a full schedule of games to be announced on Thursday.

Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United, Orlando City and Inter Miami were the MLS teams that let players in for vigorously controlled voluntary workouts on the first day they were permitted by the league.

Nashville, Real Salt Lake, LAFC, Houston and Portland are among the league's 26 teams that plan to start on Thursday, with more lined up next week.

A league-wide moratorium on group and team training remains in effect through to May 15 and it's unclear when the MLS season might resume.