After conducting a virtual meeting with the board of governors on Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver came away with no clear path toward a decision to resume or cancel the currently suspended season.
While there have been rumors of deadlines and options being considered to restart the season — now a few days past what would have been the end of the regular season — Silver said there simply is not enough information yet about COVID-19 to determine what path the league should take.
Silver, who earlier this month said he would have no decision to announce sooner than May 1, stressed that it could be longer than that and that it will be data, not dates, that determine the league’s future.
“I think we’re looking for a number of new infections to come down,” Silver said in a conference call. “We’re looking for the availability of testing on a large scale. On top of that, we’re looking at the path that we’re on for potentially a vaccine and we’re looking at anti-virals. On top of that, we’re paying close attention to what the CDC is telling us on a federal level and these various state rules that are in place.
“There’s a lot of data has to be melded together to help make these decisions. That’s part of the uncertainty. We’re not at the point where we can say if only A, B and C were met, then there’s a clear path. There’s still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward. I’ll add that the underlying principle just remains the health, safety and well-being of NBA players and everyone involved. We begin with that as paramount. We move forward from there.”
There has been speculation about playing games without fans and even in a bubble-like concept, with all teams in one city, quarantined and isolated to be able to play with no contact outside of the tested group of players, team officials and whoever else would be needed to conduct the games.
But Silver said those are just ideas.
“We’re looking at all of those things right now,” he said. “In terms of bubble-like concepts, many of them have been proposed to us and we’re only listening. We’re not seriously engaged yet in that type of environment because I can’t answer, first part, what precisely we need in order to feel that environment provided the needed health and safety for our players and everyone involved.
“I know it’s frustrating — it is for me and everyone involved in the NBA — but I’m not in position to answer your question. This goes back to what [infectious disease specialist] Dr. David] Ho said, that there is still enormous uncertainty around the virus as well . . . As I sit there today, there’s too much unknown to set a timeline or even too much unknown to say here are the precise variables. We know we need large-scale testing.”
Silver said he doesn’t want to send a signal that the season can’t be restarted.
“We’re just not ready to set a date yet in terms of how long we can wait before we no longer would be able to continue this season,” he said. “I would just say everything is on the table, including potentially delaying the start of next season. We just need more information.”
Silver has been involved, along with commissioners from other leagues, in discussions with the White House to talk out situations and the importance of sports to the economy and the emotional well-being of a quarantined nation.
“My sense of the NBA team owners is if they can be part of a movement to restart our economy that includes the NBA, they almost view that as a civic obligation,” Silver said. “I think though, on the other hand, there is no appetite to compromise the well-being of our players.
“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. And without that, we really haven’t engaged in discussions about whether or not it’s better or worse to begin focusing on next season.
“I can say all these team owners are in this business because they love the game, love the competition. In my conversation with the players, they feel the same way. But when you’re dealing with human life, that trumps anything else we are talking about. That’s sort of where the conversation began and ended today.”