Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone went after the NBA on Friday, calling its policy of not allowing coaches to bring family into the bubble “criminal in nature.”

Speaking to reporters ahead of Saturday’s Game 2 against the LA Clippers, Malone answered a different question about the bubble by saying he needed to get something off his chest.

“First, I’m going to say something that has nothing to do with your question,” he said. “Today is Day 60. All right? The guys that came down here on July 7 — and there weren’t many of us because we were ravaged with COVID — this is the original crew. This is day No. 60. The reason why I bring that up is because the players have their families here, which they deserve, which is the right thing to do. The referees are allowed to bring one guest, which is great for the referees. The coaches, the coaches are not allowed to bring anybody.”

The National Basketball Players Association and National Basketball Referees Association collectively bargained a number of issues and amenities to encourage their members to participate in the league restart in Orlando, Florida. One of those was the inclusion of family members and guests.

Players are allowed to have guests join them in the bubble, while referees will be permitted one guest once the conference finals are underway.

In a statement Friday, National Basketball Coaches Association president Rick Carlisle said that the NBCA’s discussions with the league about the viability of coaches’ families visiting Orlando are ongoing.

Jun 16, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone speaks during a press conference at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, limiting the number of people on campus was always a top priority,” a league spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “We agreed that players could bring in a limited number of family and close relations beginning with the second round of the playoffs.

“No other team or league staff, including coaches and referees, has guests on campus. We are hoping to add additional family members for other participants beginning with the Conference Finals. We are mindful of the incredible hardship these restrictions impose and wish it were not necessary for the health and safety of everyone involved.”

Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle

Prior to the Nuggets’ heading to the bubble, Malone had mentioned his frustration with not allowing family for coaches, saying he hoped the league would adjust the protocol. If the Nuggets made it to the NBA Finals, it would be more than 90 days without seeing family for coaches.

“I say, ‘Shame on you, NBA,'” said Malone, who is married and has two daughters. “This is crazy. I miss my family. And I think I speak for me, I speak for my coaches and probably all the coaches down here. Sixty days and not having access and being granted the privilege to have my family come here, to me, is criminal in nature, and that shouldn’t be at all. So I wanted to get that off my chest.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Friday’s Game 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks that the coaches’ association has petitioned the league to allow coaches’ families to be in the bubble, but he understands the challenges involved in allowing more guests.

“The entire head coaches’ association has talked to the league. Carlisle has spearheaded a lot of those discussions,” Spoelstra said. “They haven’t totally, absolutely, 100 percent shut the door, and I understand it. These are not easy decisions, and this is not a normal period of time in our history. This is unprecedented. You can’t compare this to anything else.

“… So, I get that part of it. Those are not easy decisions that the league has to make. There is a human side to it that we just want them to consider. And it has been a long period of time away from our families — this is not something that you can prepare for. We’re not in the military. We don’t have a background in this. I miss my family dearly. These are extraordinary times, and this is an extraordinary opportunity here in this bubble.”

ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.


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