Like so many other businesses in America – the NBA is paralyzed by the COVID-19 crisis.
However, commissioner Adam Silver said during a conference call with reporters Friday evening that hope is strong for a resumption of play and that the league remains in a fact-finding mode and that all options are open.
That said, while the NBA intends to be part of the landscape when the nation’s economy restarts, none of the possibilities for returning to action will be considered until resuming business can be done safely, Silver said.
“There is no appetite to compromise the well-being of our players,” he said. “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 we can sit down with the players and say, this is a way we can resume the season.
“Without that we really haven’t engaged in discussions about whether or not it’s better or worse to begin focusing on next season.”
So the possibility of resuming the 2019-20 season that was suspended on March 11 exists, but so do all other alternatives.
“When you’re dealing with human life, that trumps anything else,” he said. “That’s sort of where the conversation begins and ends. So the answer is no, we’re just not ready to set a (drop-dead) date yet in terms of how long we could wait before we no longer would be able to continue this season.
“I would just say everything is on the table, including potentially delaying the start to next season.”
Silver’s comments came after the regularly scheduled Board of Governors’ meeting that was convened via teleconference. He said that numerous topics were addressed, including the delicate subject of the financial implications of COVID-19.
Earlier Friday, the league issued a statement that an agreement had been struck with the NBA players’ association that would scale back the paychecks for players by 25 percent beginning on May 15. That move was in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement’s provisions.
As for other issues, here’s a quick-hit list of what was discussed during Silver’s news conference:
On whether restarting the league as soon as safely possible is the right thing to do:
Silver: “My sense of the NBA team owners is that if they can be part of a movement to restart our economy, that includes the NBA. They almost see that as a civic obligation.”
On whether there are more than the seven reported cases of COVID-19 among NBA players:
Silver: “While the number is greater than the initial report of seven, for privacy reasons we’re not reporting any other positive tests.”
On whether the regular season, which ended with most teams having 15-to-18 games left, is a goner:
Silver: “I mean, it’s absolutely still an option. Everything is on the table. I mean, it’s clear that if we are to resume play, we’re looking at going significantly later than June, which is historically when our season and draft would have been completed. The direction that the league office has received from our teams is, again, all rules are off at this point given the situation we find ourselves in, that the country is in. If there is an opportunity to resume play, even if it looks different than what we’ve done historically, we should be modeling it.”
On what NBA leaders have heard from scientific experts:
Silver said that Dr. David Ho, who has been consulting with the NBA since the ‘90s, and Disney executive chairman Bob Iger were special guests at the BOG meeting. “He (Ho) reaffirmed that there’s still enormous amounts of this virus yet to be learned,” Silver said. “That’s just where we find ourselves. And to steal a line from Bob, when he was asked by several people about particular timelines, he said from his standpoint, it’s about the data and not the date. That’s going to be my answer . . . the safety, health and well-being of our players, coaches, fans, everyone involved in our game, is paramount.”
On Jalen Green and others declaring for the NBA G-League rather than heading to college next season:
Silver: “They will not be on one of the existing G-League teams. We are in the process of putting together in essence a development team within the G-League to focus on these top prospects coming directly out of high school . . . We haven’t made it a secret recently it is our intention, although we still need to work out the details with the players association, to return to an entry age (to the NBA) of 18. So I see this as an interim step for our top-ranked high school seniors.”
On the financial impact of COVID-19 on NBA teams so far:
Silver: “Yes, part of our discussions (in the BOG meeting) was about the team financials. Our revenue in essence has dropped to zero. That’s having a huge financial impact on the team business and the arena business. Of course, it’s part of our jobs to project out into the future what that will mean for the NBA and the team business as we go out into the summer and then into the fall.
There is a strong recognition that there are thousands of jobs impacted by the NBA, not just the players and the basketball staff. When you include the day-of-game arena workers, the NBA is responsible for roughly 55,000 jobs.
That goes to my earlier comment about recognizing that while this virus is of course a dire public health issue, so of course is shutting down the economy. I think it’s why the league sees it as our obligation to the extent we can resume play in a safe way to look at every potential way of doing so. That’s what we’re doing now. It frustrates me that I’m not able to say: ‘If we do A, B and C, we can jump the ball. As I’ve said, we don’t have enough information to do that.”