Appearing on his league’s newly launched “#NBATogether with Ernie Johnson” Twitter broadcast, commissioner Adam Silver said no decision on the 2019-20 season would be made until at least May.
When Silver made the decision to suspend the season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive test for the coronavirus on March 11, the NBA acknowledged its hiatus would last at least 30 days. Monday marked the 25th day without professional basketball in the United States, and Silver is no closer to outlining a timeline for the return of the sport than he was when COVID-19 halted American life.
“The fact is sitting here today I know less than I did then,” Silver told Johnson in a video interview.
The NBA has considered countless scenarios for when it is deemed safe for a return to play, including games without fans at either practice facilities or a single site and the possibility of permanent changes to arena access between players and fans, but no decisions will be made in April and possibly beyond. According to Silver, public health experts and the league’s advisors have suggested that the virus may be moving faster than anticipated and could potentially peak earlier, but there are too many unknowns.
The league office had spent the first two weeks of the hiatus considering potential drop-dead dates for the possibility of completing a full 2020 slate, including the regular season, but it is a futile exercise now.
“In a perfect world, yes we would try to finish the regular season in some form and then move on to the playoffs ... but what I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that we just have too little information to make those sorts of projections,” Silver said as a sobering reminder. “I will say though that as I look out into the summer, there does come a point where we would start impacting next season. Now, even there, I think a few weeks ago nobody thought we were going to be talking about a potential impact on next season independent of what we might choose to do to finish our regular season and playoffs.”
Silver and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert were among the sports commissioners who participated in Saturday’s 45-minute conference call with President Donald Trump, who expressed his desire to see live sporting events again after tiring of classic golf telecasts over the past several weeks.
Silver confirmed reports that he told Trump that sports leagues “would love to be part of the movement to restart the economy,” just as the NBA led the way in shutting business down as the virus spread.
The commissioner said the health of everyone involved in the NBA would be his top priority when making decisions on this season, including the 55,000 arena workers and support staff whose jobs are now on hold, while also recognizing that a frozen economy and isolation are also public health matters.
“Factoring those things in, where will we be in May? Will there be an opportunity?” Silver asked rhetorically. “Beyond virtue of crowing a champion, what will the symbolism be of major-league sports starting back up in this country? I think that’s what President Trump wanted to talk to us all about on that call on Saturday. It wasn’t just a pep talk, but I think it was a reminder of what the meaning of sports is to Americans, to our culture in particular. In essence, what came back from all the leagues collectively was, once we get the all clear, however that’s determined ... we’re going to be ready to go.”
On a personal note, Silver said his wife Maggie is expecting their second daughter in mid-May.
“There’s a bit of additional anxiety in terms of going into a New York City hospital,” he conceded.
One more example of how much is unknown both within the NBA and in the lives of all Americans.
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