Written by Shashank Nair |

Updated: April 26, 2020 10:03:33 pm

NBA teams will start to reopen practice facilities for players residing in states that have loosened lockdown restrictions from Friday. (File Photo/Reuters)

NBA looks to rebound

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States was well and truly sounded off when Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert contracted the Covid-19 strain. The French 7’1 NBA back-to-back defensive player of the year was seen jokingly touching phones and recorders in a press conference days before his diagnosis – the casual gesture bringing home the perils of taking the virus lightly.

The cancellation of NBA games was the start of American sports pulling their shutters down but now the basketball league is planning a slow return to the courts. According to ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, beginning this Friday, NBA teams will start to reopen practice facilities for players residing in states that have loosened lockdown restrictions.

In states like Georgia, players can resume individual workouts but teams remain prohibited from holding group workouts or organised team activities of any sort.

Wojnarowski also reported that in American states where restrictions were tighter, the NBA was looking for means to get players back on the court, even if in an individual training capacity. But training aside, the report made it clear that the opening of practice courts in certain states wasn’t reflective of the NBA’s timetable for resumption of play.

UFC to host fights

After including the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as an essential service and thus open for business in Florida, the state has now allowed the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to hold UFC 249 at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville on May 9. The event was set to take place on April 18 in Brooklyn and was one of the last professionally-run sports across the world that was going to continue despite the advent of the pandemic.

However, ESPN, their streaming partners, shut any chance of the event taking place in April and pulled the plug on the card. The UFC, on its website, has stated that the May 9 event will be streamed live on ESPN and ESPN+.

Not only this, the UFC has also decided to stage two more events on May 13 and May 16 in Florida. All three events will be closed to the public and will be broadcast with only essential personnel in the arena.

“Sports play an important role in people’s lives and can bring moments of escape in challenging times,” ESPN said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing UFC to fans again.”

Boxing on in Nicaragua

A boxing event was held in Managua, Nicaragua on Saturday night by promoter Rosendo Alvarez – a former two-time world champion. However, even with the offer of free tickets for the eight-fight event, the 8000-seater arena was only about a tenth full.

“Here we don’t fear the coronavirus, and there is no quarantine. The three deaths (reported so far by the Ministry of Health) came from outside and nobody within the country has been contaminated,” Álvarez, known as ‘El Búfalo,’ said before the event.

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The fights were broadcast by Nicaragua’s state-owned Canal 6 and ESPN Latin America through its ESPN KnockOut programme, according to the Associated Press.

The Nicaraguan baseball and football leagues are still playing, and Saturday’s local sports pages included stories on a triathlon and school wrestling tournaments.

President Daniel Ortega recently ordered 1.8 million students back to school and 170,000 state employees back to work following a 15-day vacation.

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