So many developments have unfolded surrounding the novel coronavirus. Does that mean NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has any clarity on when the league will resume operations nearly four weeks after suspending the season?
"The short answer is no," Silver said in an interview with TNT’s Ernie Johnson on Monday evening.
Expect Silver to keep that stance for at least the next month.
"What I’ve told my folks over the last week is we should accept at least for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decisions," Silver said. "I don’t think that necessarily means on May 1, we will be. But at least I know, just to settle everyone down a little bit, it doesn’t mean internally the league in discussion with players and the teams aren’t looking at many different scenarios for restarting the season. Honestly, it’s just too early given what is happening right now to be able to project or predict where we will be in a few weeks."
More than 10,000 people have died of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon, which surpasses the number of battle deaths from six U.S. wars combined. Though social distancing efforts have helped flatten the curve, hospitals are still overwhelmed with an influx of patients and not enough supplies.
That has left Silver in what he called "listening mode" with ongoing talks with league officials, the players union, health officials and local jurisdictions on various ideas.
Silver confirmed the NBA has considered various scenarios to salvage the 2019-20 season. That includes still resuming the regular season, playing regular-season games or postseason games without fans, and even holding those events at either an NBA arena, a practice facility or a designated neutral site. Las Vegas has been promoted as one of those possibilities since it also hosts NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.
Still, Silver remains sensitive on when to resume operations since the NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Since then, nine players have reported to have tested positive for COVID-19, including Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and three unnamed teammates and two unnamed Los Angeles Lakers players. Three unidentified members of the Philadelphia 76ers also have tested positive, as well as an unidentified member of the Denver Nuggets.
Silver talked about those issues and more with other professional sports leagues in a 45-minute conference call with President Donald Trump on Saturday. Silver said he told Trump that the NBA would be prepared to resume operations the moment that public health officials, as well as federal, state and local governments, consider it safe to do so.
"We would love to be a part of the movement to restart the economy," Silver said. "That can’t come in any way that would compromise safety. But we also have to recognize it is a public health matter to shut down the economy and to leave tens of million Americans unemployed. It’s a public health matter to isolate people, all done for good reason right now. Health and safety have to come before any commercial interest."
Nonetheless, Silver admitted nursing concerns about the economic impact. The NBA is a multi-billion dollar corporation. Silver and other executives plan to take pay cuts. Players might, as well. But Silver mentioned that NBA arenas have employed a combined 55,000 full-time and part-time workers, something Silver said "is keeping me up at night." Most NBA teams have pledged to pay those workers to cover games missed, but they have not decided on their long-term future since the league has not canceled the season.
"Beyond virtue of crowning a champion, what will be the symbolism be of major league sports starting back up in this country?" Silver said. "I think that’s what President Trump wanted to talk to us on that call. It wasn’t just a pep talk. It was a reminder of what the meaning of sports to Americans and our culture in particular."
Silver has plenty of other concerns beyond his role as the NBA commissioner. He revealed his wife, Maggie, is expecting their second child in early May. Though Silver described Maggie as "very calm," he admitted there is "a bit of additional anxiety in terms of going to a New York City hospital in the middle of all of this." Silver added his father-in-law has also dealt recently with emphysema.
Nonetheless, Silver also expressed optimism on a number of fronts. He maintained hope his wife's delivery will happen without any complications. He believes medical professionals will develop a vaccine for COVID-19. He does not anticipate the league will only need to adopt strict social distancing guidelines in arenas as "short-term measures" once operations resume.
For now though, Silver lacked the answers to the same questions he wrestled with in March: When or if the NBA will resume its 2019-20 season again.
Said Silver: "There’s too much unknown right now."
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