According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, much is still up in the air regarding the status of the 2019-2020 NBA season, which has been suspended since March 11 due to coronavirus.
After a regularly scheduled Board of Governors meeting Friday afternoon, Silver had a conference call with media to discuss the state of affairs.
“We are not in a position to make any decisions and it’s unclear when we will be,” Silver said, emphasizing he’s focused more about the scientific data than the specific dates of return to play.
What affects the Hawks (20-47) the most, since they’re out of playoff contention, is the status of the regular season. As of now, there’s no timeline to resume the remainder of the regular season (the Hawks had 15 games left), nor begin the playoffs, even if playing games at one specific location and without fans was an option. Had the season gone as originally scheduled, the Hawks would have played their final regular season game Wednesday and the NBA playoffs would have begun this weekend.
Regarding what data he’d assess before making a decision about returning to play, Silver said the league would be looking for the number of new infections to decrease, the availability of testing on a large scale, the path of developing a vaccine, antivirals, as well as following CDC guidelines and different state rules.
Silver said he doesn’t mean to send any signals about the likelihood of the 2019 season restarting or not, but said he simply doesn’t have enough information to make a decision yet. He also isn’t ready to set a cutoff date of how long the league can wait before making that decision, but said everything is on the table, including “potentially delaying the start of next season.”
“There’s a lot of data that all has to be melded together to help make these decisions,” Silver says. “I think 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. But I’ll add that the underlying principle just remains the health, safety and well-being of NBA players and everyone involved.”
Silver addressed the possibility of what’s being referred to as a “bubble” scenario, essentially playing all NBA games without fans and in one location.
“In terms of bubble-like concepts, many of them have been proposed to us and we’ve only listened,” Silver said. “We’re not seriously engaged yet in that type of environment because I can’t answer ... what precisely would we need to see in order to feel that that environment provided the need health and safety for our players and everyone involved. I know it’s frustrating. It is for me, and everyone involved in the NBA.”
The league may be in a different position “some weeks” from now, Silver added, but there’s too much unknown to set much of a timeline right now.
As far as team owners’ appetite to restart the season, as opposed to canceling the rest of the season and trying to keep next season to its regular dates, Silver’s sense was that they’d want to be part of the movement to restart the economy – but that desire has limits based on the health and safety of players and staff.
“When you’re dealing with human life, that trumps anything else we could possibly be talking about,” Silver said. “So that’s sort of where the conversation began and ended today.”
» More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak