NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says they 'cannot sit on sidelines indefinitely' as league nears restart

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of NBPA, said they were ‘relieved’ that just 16 players out of the 302 tested had tested positive for coronavirus, and none of those 16 players were seriously ill.

Amit Kamath June 27, 2020 09:32:53 IST
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says they 'cannot sit on sidelines indefinitely' as league nears restart

It could not have been more ominous that on the day the NBA announced it had finalised plans for restarting the 2019-20 season, interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, it also revealed that 16 players had tested positive for COVID-19.

However, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Executive Director of National Basketball Players Association Michele Roberts, both said they were ‘relieved’ that just 16 players out of the 302 tested had returned positive tests, and none of those 16 players were seriously ill.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says they cannot sit on sidelines indefinitely as league nears restart

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a file photo. AP

“I was relieved that the number (of positive tests) came back to roughly where we had expected it to. I was also relieved that none of the 16 players were seriously ill in any way,” Silver told journalists on a global conference call early Saturday morning.

“If nothing else, it told me that a great majority of our players have been doing exactly what they should have been doing to keep themselves safe,” said Roberts.

The tests were carried out on Tuesday on players from the 22 teams heading to Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort for the league’s restart. The results mean that just over five percent of players tested are infected with the virus.

Friday also brought along worrying news that nearly 9,000 people had tested positive for coronavirus in Florida, the state where the league will be based upon its restart. It was a single-day record for Florida, and will possibly lead to worries among players and franchises.

“We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. We have to adapt. No options are risk-free right now. We cannot sit on the sidelines indefinitely,” said Silver, who admitted that the level of concern had increased in the league with news of the massive spike in cases in Florida.

Silver was also asked whether they would still choose the same venue for the league’s restart if they were making the decision today.

“Because of the lead times, there’s certainly an ebb and flow to this virus. It’s on the rise in a majority of the states in the country at the moment. My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus. We will be living with the virus for the foreseeable future, which is why we designed the campus the way we did: it’s a closed network. It’s not impermeable, but we’re, in essence, protected from cases around us,” Silver said. “We’re never going to say that there’s nothing that's going to cause us to change our plans. One thing we’re learning with this virus is that so much is unpredictable. We’re not saying full steam ahead, no matter what happens. We’ll see how this continues to play out, but we are very comfortable with where we are right now.”

Silver said that the league would be treating a positive case on the campus as an 'injury', with the NBA going ahead as scheduled in case of isolated positive tests. However, he stated that should there be a significant number of cases, the league would have to be halted once again. He revealed that the NBA had a partnership with Advent Health for an on-site clinic for players and staff.

Silver clarified on Saturday that players and officials living in the bubble at Orlando would underdo daily testing, at least initially. He emphasised that players who were living inside the bubble would be free to leave should they wish to, but would have to be placed in quarantine should they want to return.

“We ultimately believe it will be safer on our campus than outside it,” Silver said, before adding that they were in talks with Disney, which owns the facility where the league will stay and play in a bubble, to test a “subset” of their employees who would come into contact with NBA players.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says they cannot sit on sidelines indefinitely as league nears restart

NBA games will be played at Walt Disney World resort in Florida. AP

Silver also said that playing on a closed campus was not the NBA’s first choice, but it was the data that had convinced them to pursue the option.

With the NBA slated to restart on 30 July, 22 teams will be travelling to Orlando: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference.

According to the NBA’s timeline, teams will being arriving in Florida by 7 July, but close relatives of players and staff can only enter the bubble by 30 August. The NBA Finals are scheduled to begin on 30 September.

Meanwhile, Roberts said that the NBA and NBPA were having discussions with the other eight teams regarding formal games for them. Representatives of these teams had raised concerns about the long layoff for teams whose season had ended in March, when the NBA was brought to a halt. However, she pointed out that any activity involving the remaining eight teams would have to match the safety protocols being implemented by the league in Orlando.

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