After Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the NBA became the first major North American sports league to suspend its play.
A total of seven player-related positive COVID-19 tests have been reported since then, and what comes next is far from certain as the league attempts to determine if, how and when play can resume.
“When people do pretend they can predict the future, they’re generally wrong,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN. “I’d say look no further than the fact that certainly two weeks ago, and even a week ago, people were saying very different things than they are today.”
In an ever-changing landscape such as this pandemic, all options about what could come next are being considered, according to Silver, including the long-term goal of returning to business as usual, whether or not there is a safe way to resume play without fans in attendance, and even a one-off game for charity — if sufficient measures could be put in place to ensure it was safe.
“Are there conditions in which a group of players could compete,” Silver said. “Maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser, or just for the collective good of the people, that you take a subset of players, and is there protocol in which they can be tested and quarantined or isolated in some way, and then they can compete against each other.”
Just because, again, people are stuck at home and I think they need a diversion, they need to be entertained. And just to add to that point, one of the things that I’ve heard from several of our teams — and something I’ve been thinking about a lot — is that we were the first to shut our league down, what way can we be a first-mover to help restart the economy?”
For a one-off game or for NBA action without fans in the stands, Silver stressed that the priority is the health and well-being of those involved and the greater community. Part of the greater community’s well-being, though, as he sees it, is recognizing the NBA’s place in it — both fiscally and filling the void left by a lack of live sporting events.
“Just in the case of the NBA, when you include our day of game workers in our arenas, just the NBA accounts for 55,000 jobs,” Silver said. “So I think we all have to be thinking collectively [about] what the right balance is, and I know of course this is the obligation of government officials: When will it be OK to come back out of our homes and say it’s time to re-engage with each other.”
“When I look at the options, maybe we can do this incrementally. The first step isn’t games with thousands of people in the arenas, but maybe it’s just games.”