The NBA has implemented new rules that will allow players, coaches and the team’s basketball staff a bit more freedom, especially when they’re on the road.

Under the new rules, masks will not have to be worn at the practice facilities, there’s more flexibility for players and staff to leave the team hotel on road trips, in-person team meetings will be allowed, meals can be served on all team flights, players and the staff can dine indoors or outdoors at restaurants, and PCR test can be done before 5 p.m.

Also, for players who decide to take the COVID-19 vaccine — two weeks past the final vaccine dose — there will be no testing on off days, in-person sponsorship and attending marketing events will be allowed, and there will be no quarantine due to contact tracing. Also, family, friends and others can visit the players at home or on the road without testing or registering with the team.

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he hasn’t read the entire memo from the NBA headquarters. He added that the Mavs won’t forced their players to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

“But my understanding is that the restrictions are easing up slightly because people are becoming vaccinated, which is a great thing,” Carlisle said. “I don’t have details, league-wide, as to which teams have been vaccinated and which haven’t.

“In terms of our players, vaccination is certainly going to be their choice. It’s not something that will be required. My feeling is it will be encouraged, but it’s going to be their choice alone. They won’t be forced to do it.”

Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts is excited that the NBA has taken this stance to relax some of the rules and trying to give the players, coaches and staff a bit more freedom.

“I think it’s a great motivation to get everybody vaccinated, and to me that’s paramount, obviously,” Stotts. “And it should be good motivation to get vaccinated.

“But I look forward to that day when we are able to take advantage of all those things that are being loosen up.”

The Atlanta Hawks announced Thursday that 36 staff members – including 14 of their players — have received their first vaccination. The New Orleans Pelicans have also announced that some of their players and basketball staff have received the first does of the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the playoffs coming in May, the NBA would like to avoid a situation like what occurred in the recent All-Star game when Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons couldn’t play in the game after they came in contact with their barber, who tested positive for the coronavirus. Embiid and Simmons couldn’t play in the All-Star game because of contact tracing and had to return home and quarantine.

If something of that nature happens in the playoffs, it would be a major problem that the NBA wants to avoid.

Meanwhile, Carlisle said: “It feels like things are going in a positive direction. There’s a few more people in the buildings now.

“Our home building now is starting to feel more like a home building, which is great for our fans and great for our players. And we’re seeing that across the league as well in other buildings.”

Very amusing: In case anyone missed it, something very amusing happened on Thursday’s showing of ESPN’S The Jump.

The host and co-hosts were extolling the virtues of Sacramento point guard De’Aaron Fox, who buried a game-winning jump shot on Wednesday over Washington’s Bradley Beal with just 0.7 seconds remaining that gave the Kings a 121-119 victory over the Wizards, and then this happened.

“Finally, the Kings have done something right drafting De’Aaron Fox and giving him a max contract because he’s earned it,” co-host Kendrick Perkins said. “He’s getting better every single year and now he’s starting to show us that he’s capable of taking over fourth quarters and being clutch.”

That’s when host, Rachel Nichols, chimed in and said: “Well Perk, you speak no lies. But I will also point out that the Kings have done a lot of not right things after drafting De’Aaron Fox.” Nichols then intentionally coughed and said: “Luka.”

Nichols intentionally coughed again and said: “Luka. I have something caught in my throat.” She intentionally coughed again and said: “Luka.”

Obviously, the intentional coughs by Nichols were tongue-in-cheek. But there’s truth in the fact that after using the fifth overall pick in 2017 NBA Draft to select Fox, the Kings bypassed on a chance to draft Luka Doncic in 2018.

The Phoenix Suns drafted Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall selection of the 2018 draft, and the Kings had the No. 2 pick – and Doncic obviously was still on the board. But instead of drafting Doncic, the Kings drafted Marvin Bagley III.

Cauley-Stein out: Mavs center Willie Cauley-Stein missed Friday’s game at Portland because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

“I can’t get into too much detail,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But it was just a situation where he may have come in contact and so he’s entered quarantine, and I don’t know for how long it’s going to be or anything like that.

“The good news is it was something that does not affect the rest of the team. We’ll miss him for this unspecified amount of time. He’s been having a terrific year.”

Carlisle also said there’s a chance forward Dorian Finney-Smith could join the Mavs at some point on this three-game road trip. Finney-Smith also missed Wednesday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers after the borth of his son earlier that day.

After playing in Portland – again – on Sunday, the Mavs play in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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