NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Talks Testing, Hiatus, Return, More on Coronavirus

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before an NBA preseason basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Saitama, near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed a number of topics regarding the league's handling of the coronavirus pandemic during an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Wednesday's episode of SportsCenter

He notably said the league is looking at three options when it comes to restarting its suspended season: playing games with fans at the point it's safe to do so, returning to play without fans in the arenas or creating some type of tournament or charity game in which a handful of players can compete for the "good of the people."

Silver suggested there may be the possibility that some players could be tested and isolated before competing against each other for public morale and as a way of helping restart the economy.

When asked if the league will pick up with regular-season games or just go straight into the playoffs, the commissioner said, "I honestly don't know because I don't have a good enough sense" as to how long the coronavirus will prevent large gatherings from being safe.

"I'm optimistic by nature and I want to believe we can salvage at least some portion of this season," he said while still cautioning the health and safety of the players, staff members and fans will be the driving force to any decision for a league that will play "when public health officials give us the OK."

Nichols also asked Silver if he has a plan in place to deal with individual awards such as the MVP should the season not continue, and he said: "I'm not there yet."

Silver revealed the hiatus could "possibly" lead to a permanent shift in the NBA's schedule:

Silver also recognized the role the NBA has played in spreading awareness about the coronavirus, especially after it suspended the season following Rudy Gobert's positive test. He called canceling March 11's game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder "in essence a split-second decision," especially since he was working with additional information stemming from discussions with public health experts.

"There's a particular role that the NBA can play in getting the message out, especially to young people," he said while acknowledging the country wasn't taking this threat seriously enough before the NBA's decision to suspend the season.

Silver also said he has been in contact with all players in the league who tested positive and was "not all that surprised" four members of the Brooklyn Nets did. "My sense is, especially within the New York area, that if you took almost any group of New Yorkers it would be likely, increasingly likely, that there would be positive results."

Nichols also asked the commissioner what his response was to criticism that so many NBA players and full teams have been tested even though there are many in the U.S. who need testing but have not been.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio was among those who raised such concerns:

"It's unfortunate that we're in this position as a society ... with insufficient tests," Silver said. However, he also pointed out the Jazz did not ask to be tested last Wednesday and instead were following directives from an Oklahoma health official who wouldn't let them leave the locker room until they were tested.

Since then, Silver said the league and teams have followed protocols and doctor recommendations to look at those the most recent contact with the Jazz before expanding the circle.

"From an NBA standpoint, we were following directives," he said while also pointing out games could have continued for "several more days" if Gobert wasn't tested. That would have stood in stark contrast to the league serving as a leader in the sports world with its decision to suspend the season.

The Oklahoma City Thunder notably announced: "Recognizing the stress on the state of Oklahoma's medical system, the Thunder did not use state resources and chose an alternative path for testing of its personnel." The Nets also released a statement Wednesday noting their tests were obtained privately by the team.

The NBA's decision to suspend the season spearheaded a number of similar moves by other leagues and organizers, including the suspension of the NHL and MLS seasons, the cancellation of the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, the postponement of marquee events such as the Masters and Kentucky Derby, and Major League Baseball's decision to push back the start day of its regular season. 

As of Wednesday, the World Health Organization confirmed more than 207,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus. That has led to more than 8,600 deaths worldwide.

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