When NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the suspension of the season a week ago due to the coronavirus COVID-19 he put 30 days as a starting point for a hiatus. As others have followed the league’s example to shut down, he is no closer now than he was then to figuring out an end date for the shutdown — or if there will be a return this season. "I’ve certainly learned in this job and process when people do pretend they can predict the future they’re generally wrong,” Silver said in an interview on ESPN. “Look no further than the fact that certainly two weeks ago and even a week ago, people are saying very different things than they’re saying today. Of course, one of the things we are very focused on in the league office and with our teams are what are the conditions we need to restart.
“I’d say I’m looking at these things. One is, of course, when can we start and operate as we’ve known it, 19,000 fans in buildings. Option two is should we consider restarting without fans, and what would that mean. Presumably, if you had a group of players and staff around them and could test them and follow some protocol, doctors and health officials may say it’s safe to play.
“A third options — and all suggestions are welcome,” he added. “The impact to me on the national psyche of having no sports on television. One of the things we’ve been talking about, are there conditions a group of players could compete? And maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser or just the collective good of the people, that you take a subset of players and is there a protocol they could be tested and quarantined, isolated in some way, and then they compete against each other just because people are stuck at home and I think they need a diversion. They need to be entertained. One thing I’ve thought about a lot, we were the first to shut our league down, in what way could we be a first mover to start our economy.”
There remains so much unknown now, but the season was halted last Wednesday when Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Since then six more players — his teammate Donovan Mitchell, Detroit’s Christian Wood, and four Brooklyn Nets players, including Kevin Durant — have all been confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.
While the league has taken criticism for entire teams of players and staff being tested when the number of tests available is so limited and many people with symptoms are still having difficulty getting tested, Silver said that he hoped that his players being tested and stepping forward publicly has raised awareness. He pointed out that the Jazz did not ask to be tested, but the Oklahoma City public health officials forced them to.
“You can put our players in the category some would refer to of super spreaders. That is they are young people working in proximity to each other. They are traveling at great frequency, regularly in large groups, including the public,” Silver said. For the young cohort in particular, large numbers of them are asymptomatic, and if they do have symptoms they’re relatively mild.
“So what’s happening with that group is that until government at all levels started to clamp down, I think because it wasn’t affecting them so much personally, they might not have understood the magnitude of the crisis in our country. Some of the direct conversations I’ve had with our players, it cuts both ways, when Donovan Mitchell, people see him on social media or doing public service announcements for us, when he says, ‘I’m good, I’m healthy,’ we have to be careful, other young people see it, he tested positive, and think it’s no big deal. We told our players when you hug grandma you could put her in jeopardy. We’re learning more and about COVID-19 all the time. but it’s particularly lethal for older people and people with underlying conditions. So I think in this crisis there is a particular role the NBA can play in terms of getting the message out to young people.”
The Knicks, despite playing two teams that have positive-tested players in the last week before the shutdown, have not tested their players
In a statement from Madison Square Garden Corporation, they said, “We have been following the recommendations of local and national health officials and continue to monitor our players closely. As of now, with our players remaining asymptomatic, none of them have been tested for COVID-19. We will remain in close contact with health officials and the NBA and NHL.”