Two days after speaking on a conference call with President Donald Trump, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke in an NBATogether digital interview Monday, but he could offer little clarity on when the league will return to action.
Though there are discussions about ways to bring the league back — in arenas without fans or in one location with quarantined players, for example — there are no answers right now.
“We should accept that at least for the month of April, we won’t be in any position to make any decisions,” Silver said. “The fact is, now sitting here today, I know less in a way than I did [when the league shut down].
“I think in some ways as I listen to the public health experts and the people that are advising us, the virus is potentially moving faster than maybe we had thought at that point and that, therefore, may peak earlier.
“What that means in terms of our ability to come back in late spring or early summer is still unknown to me. Essentially, what I’ve told my folks over the last week is that we should just accept that, at least for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decision.”
Silver made the decision to be the first professional league to suspend play when he shut down the NBA after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. And though he would like to lead the way back, he repeatedly stressed that the safety of the players and the rest of the workers needed to hold a game would come first.
“The health of everyone involved in the NBA has to come first,” Silver said while speaking with Turner Sports’ Ernie Johnson. “To the point about the greater good, sports collectively, we led the way about shutting down. Something I said on the call with the president, all the leagues would love to be part of the movement to restart the economy, but that can’t come in any way to risk health . . . It’s a public health matter to isolate people. The health and safety have to come before any commercial interests.
“No doubt as a country, we’re following the right course. What I’m learning — look how little we knew on March 11, 12, to where we are today. Some of the models were wildly off.
“I’ve learned not to try to make predictions. Be true to the data. We know our priorities in terms of health and safety; factoring those things, beyond virtue of crowning a champion, what would the symbolism of sports starting back up in this country be?”
Silver described the call with Trump and the other commissioners as a pep talk, detailing how Trump began the call by expressing his own frustration with being unable to watch live sports on television.
“He made some introductory remarks, the fact that he is a passionate sports fan, the fact that he missed seeing live sports on television,” Silver said. “He mentioned he was watching some classic games . . . It was a chance for us to say we stand behind the country, we want to be healthy.”
Silver said the league has been discussing all kinds of options for a return to play but also is faced with the reality that restarting the season too far into the summer would conflict with next season’s schedule as well as the offseason work of the draft and free agency. But he insisted that the schedule will not take priority over the health and safety of the players and workers.
“As a reminder, as focused as we are on players and coaches, the NBA includes all the day-of-game arena workers, 55,000 jobs,” Silver said. “That’s what’s keeping me up at night. There is a huge impact on tens of millions of Americans, if not a billion people around the world who follow the league. What’s immediate [concern] is jobs . . .
“The sports industry can contribute restarting to this, bringing their spirits up. We all miss it. This is an important form of entertainment, especially for young people . . . First and foremost is dealing with this virus. As experts have said, that means separation, isolation. We’re all prepared. We shouldn’t pretend it’s not coming at a great cost.”