Blunt COVID-19 Update on NBA Season from Commissioner Adam Silver

Staples Center in Los Angeles, home of the NBA's Lakers and Clippers

Getty Staples Center in Los Angeles, home of the NBA's Lakers and Clippers

In the absence of any definitive scenario in which the NBA—or any sport—can get back to action as the novel coronavirus continues its spread around the nation, a number of theories and postulations have arisen as to what might come next.

Those theories have come from any number of sources—players who don’t see how the league can ramp up in time to finish off the season, hopeful owners who still want to generate whatever remaining revenue they can from a televised NBA postseason, agents whose clients are banking on free agency in the coming years.

In recent days, at least, there had been a sense of positivity around the potential for a resumption of action. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote about a 25-day plan that would see players spend two weeks getting into shape, followed by a training camp, ahead of a resumption of the season. And in The Athletic, it was reported that “optimism abounds in the ownership, player, agent and league office ranks.”

Alas, that optimism was short-lived. The commissioner saw to that this week.

Silver: ‘Not in a Position’ to Decide on Season

Indeed, we have not heard a lot lately from commissioner Adam Silver. He’s the guy who made the decision to NBA shut down the season back on March 11, after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus and raised the specter of COVID-19 spreading through the ranks of players and coaches in the league.

Silver was out front, making several media appearances in the days after the league shuttered itself for an indeterminate amount of time. More recently, he’s been quiet. Despite the many theories being floated, Silver has had nothing definitive to add.

On Friday, he did come forth after the NBA held its annual postseason Board of Governors meeting under unusual circumstances—the meeting takes place each year in New York after the regular season has wrapped up, but was held virtually this week, while the season is still waiting to be completed.

“We are not in a position to make any decisions,” Silver told reporters. “And it’s unclear when we will be.”

Safety Will Come First for NBA

Silver did say that as soon as there was some indication that it would be safe to play and that a return of the NBA could help build some confidence and goodwill around the nation, the league would be ready to jump back into play.

“My sense of the NBA team owners is that if they can be part of a movement to restart our economy that includes the NBA, they almost see that as a civic obligation. I think though on the other hand there is no appetite to compromise the well-being of our players,” Silver said.

The problem is that, no matter what has appeared in the media, there is no sense that the league has a date on which it can fix as a possibility to return to play. The spread of the virus remains too uncertain now.

In fact, Silver said, the league has not even decided whether to focus on resuscitating this season or canceling and moving on to plans for next season. Any major operation like the NBA would need to see a serious reduction in new COVID-19 cases and an increase in testing capacity—and speed—before it could reopen meaningfully.

“In terms of priorities, if you begin with safety, we’re not at a point yet where we have a clear protocol and a clear path forward where we feel that we can sit down with the players and say, this is a way to resume the season,” Silver said. “We really haven’t engaged in discussions about whether or not … it’s better or worse, to begin focusing on next season.”

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