Commissioner Adam Silver: If NBA Resumes Season, it Will Be Without Fans

Jesse Pantuosco
May 09, 2020 - 10:34 am

If the NBA does return this season, commissioner Adam Silver cautions it won’t be the same product we’re used to seeing. Such is life in the era of COVID-19, a deadly virus that has already taken over 78,000 American lives.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who obtained a recording of Silver’s conference call with players and league officials on Friday, a decision on whether the NBA will resume its 2019-20 campaign may not come until June. If the NBA does start up again this season, it won’t be with fans in attendance and players would likely be confined to one or two designated locations—Las Vegas and Orlando have both been suggested—to limit their exposure to the virus.

“This could turn out to be the single greatest challenge of all our lives," Silver told players during the hour-long call. “Until there's a vaccine, or some cocktail preventing people from dying from the virus, we are going to be dealing with this collectively.”

Silver is optimistic testing will be readily available in the near future, but was adamant players and NBA staff will not be given preferential treatment. “We won't be taking tests from needy people,” said the commissioner. Thunder point guard Chris Paul, who also serves as President of the NBA’s Players Association, expressed that some players are feeling pressure from teams to resume optional workouts (a handful of league facilities reopened this week), a troubling development Silver described as, “disheartening.”

Even if the NBA resumes play in 2020, Silver hinted the start of next season could be pushed back until December amid the ongoing chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The commissioner remains hopeful that when and if the league returns, the NBA would be able to follow its traditional seven-game playoff structure, though Silver did allow the possibility for “play-in” games under these unusual circumstances.

Some, including Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, have called for the NBA to cancel the remainder of 2019-20, citing the risks and potential complications caused by COVID-19. While the league has not yet reached that conclusion, the NBA certainly faces an uphill battle. Sources indicate upwards of 15,000 tests would be required to resume play and even then, the NBA would still face dire financial repercussions as an estimated 40 percent of league revenue comes from fans on game nights. "The CBA was not built for extended pandemics,” Silver admitted.

Silver, like all of us, is learning there are no guarantees in this unprecedented time in our history.

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