There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the resumption of the NBA season.
That was perhaps the biggest takeaway from league commissioner Adam Silver’s conference call Friday night with members of the media.
The commissioner, who had just completed his April Board of Governors video conference meeting, noted that Walt Disney executive chairman Bob Iger and Dr. David Ho, a world-renowned infectious disease specialist at Columbia University, addressed the board. Ho, who made contributions to the treatment of HIV, has been working with the league since the early 1990s and is consulting with it during the coronavirus pandemic.
“He reaffirmed that there’s still enormous amounts of this virus yet to be learned,” Silver said of Ho. “Again, that’s just where we find ourselves.”
When asked about particular timelines, Silver said, according to Iger, “It’s about the data and not the date.”
Silver said that was going to be his answer to the media when asked similar questions.
“I would say the sense of our board was that the safety, health, and well-being of our players, coaches, fans, everyone involved in our game, is paramount,” he said. “Based on the reports we have gotten from various outside officials, current public health officials, Dr. Ho and Bob Iger, that we are not in a position to make any decisions, and it’s unclear when we will be.”
The league’s regular season was suspended March 11 after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Silver announced the next day that play would be halted for at least 30 days.
The next expectation was the NBA might not resume until July. Silver told TNT’s Ernie Johnson on April 7 that there won’t be enough information to make a decision until May at the earliest.
But on Friday, Silver was asked what kind of data is he looking for in regards to the coronavirus and a return to play.
The commissioner said the league is looking for the number of new COVID-19 infections. The NBA is also looking for the availability of large-scale testing, a potential path for a vaccine, and antivirals. It is also paying close attention to what the Center for Disease Control is doing on a federal level and what state rules are in place.
He acknowledged there’s a lot of data that has to be blended together to help make a decision.
“But that’s part of the uncertainty,” Silver said. “I think we’re not even at the point where we can say, ‘If only A, B, and C were met, then there’s a clear path.’
“I think there’s still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward.”
Silver added that he senses NBA owners see it almost as a civic obligation to be part of a moment to restart the economy.
The league has not set a cutoff date in regards to canceling the rest of the season and turning the focus on preparing for the 2020-21 campaign. The NBA also hasn’t ruled out finishing up the regular season when it returns.
“Everything is on the table,” Silver said. "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.”
There have been reports that the league will play in a “bubble-like atmosphere." They would have all of the participating teams play at one isolated, quarantined location.
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small confirmed on March 31 that he’s attempting to lure the league to Boardwalk Hall for the playoffs.
Atlantic City, Orlando, Hawaii, Louisville, and Las Vegas are possible locations for a 16-team playoff minus fans. The Bahamas have been mentioned as another potential site.
“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 the first part of your question, which is, 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?”
The one thing we do know is the NBA is taking a financial hit by not playing basketball at this time.
“Our revenue, in essence, has dropped to zero,” Silver said. “That’s having a huge financial impact on the team business and the arena business.”
Including the day-of-game arena staffers, he noted the league is responsible for around 55,000 jobs.
But it was evident Friday that Silver doesn’t have any answers.