NBA commissioner Adam Silver
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Adam Silver: ‘It’s too soon to tell what the economic impact will be’

Leave a comment

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver finds himself almost constantly looking at financial numbers and projections. And like the rest of a world that is dealing with the seismic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, he still isn’t sure how bad things will get.

Silver said Saturday the league is considering all options — best-case, worst-case and countless ideas in between — as it tries to come to grips with this new normal. But definitive answers on any front are in short supply.

“It’s too soon to tell what the economic impact will be,” Silver said. “We’ve been analyzing multiple scenarios on a daily if not hourly basis and we’ll continue to review the financial implications. Obviously, it’s not a pretty picture but everyone, regardless of what industry they work in, is in the same boat.”

Saturday marked the 10th full day of the NBA’s shutdown, a stoppage that has cost the league 75 games and counting so far, a total that will reach triple digits on Wednesday and will eventually get to 259 on April 15 — the day the regular season was supposed to end. Play isn’t going to resume by then. The financial losses will be massive and will obviously just keep growing if this season cannot resume or if next season is affected.

“Adam is obviously cautious, cautiously optimistic,” Cleveland forward Kevin Love said earlier in the week. “We don’t know what the future holds but the NBA has been through a lot, we’ve seen a lot and I think we’ll be incredibly resilient. It just might take time.”

Players who are due to get their next paycheck on April 1 will get them. Whether those players will get their April 15 check is in some question; the league can exercise a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows it to take back 1.08% of each player’s salary for each game missed in certain times — like war, or in this case, a pandemic.

That clause has not been exercised yet since, officially anyway, no game has been canceled.

“We’re exploring all options to resume our season if and when it is safe to do so,” Silver said. “Nothing is off the table.”

Besides, there are other bridges to cross first. The NBA — which was the first major U.S. pro league to say it would play games without fans and the first league to suspend its season once All-Star center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive — has been extremely vocal in trying to get its massive fan base to take social distancing and other preventative measures seriously.

“Our focus right now is doing all that we can to support, engage and educate the general public in response to this pandemic,” Silver said. “We are also making sure that we are prepared to resume the season if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.”

The league has asked teams for building availability dates through the end of August, an indicator that this season — if it resumes — may stretch deep into the summer.

So far, there are 14 people within the NBA community, including at least 10 players, known to have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those positive tests, seven became known publicly on Thursday and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics revealed that he has the virus.

“Unfortunately, based on everything we know, significantly more positive cases in our league were inevitable,” Silver said. “So, Thursday’s results did not come as a huge surprise and just like everyone else, we’re just trying to take each day as it comes.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

As of Saturday, there were more 19,000 known positive cases in the U.S. and more than 250 deaths blamed on the virus. Globally, there have been nearly 300,000 cases diagnosed so far with nearly 12,000 deaths. The virus first exploded in mainland China, where the NBA has offices and about 200 employees.

What workers in China went through helped the league quickly grasp some sort of understanding of the severity. Silver made the decision to shut down the league before any public health experts advised the NBA to take that step. He even sounded the alarm publicly in mid-February at NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago — saying then it was “a major national, if not global, health crisis” that was taking place.

“We’ve learned a lot from our China office,” Silver said, noting that meetings have been of the virtual variety there for several weeks now.

Silver’s sixth full season as commissioner of the NBA started with the league getting into a major rift with China. His mentor and NBA Commissioner emeritus David Stern died two months later. Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash less than a month after that.

Now he is dealing with the biggest crisis of them all — a pandemic, affecting and threatening virtually every corner of the planet.

“It’s been a challenging season,” Silver said. “For all of us.”

Doc Rivers challenges Sen. Josh Hawley to acknowledge Black Lives Matter

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley used the NBA’s list of social-justice messages players could put on their jerseys as an opportunity to grandstand. He wants more politics in the NBA — just his politics. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski got in trouble for his succinct response to Hawley (Woj reportedly has been suspended).

Clippers coach Doc Rivers had a longer response — and a challenge for Hawley.

“I mean, we have a senator that Tweets at Woj yesterday just because he was talking about what we were going to put on the back of our jersey,” Rivers said from the NBA Orlando restart on a conference call with reporters. “And they always try to turn it into the military or the police. There’s no league that does more for the military than the NBA.

“But how that about that Senator? I’ll make a challenge: We will do things for the troops as long as he acknowledges Black Lives Matter. I think that would be really cool for him to do.

“You know, it’s funny, whenever we talk about justice, people try to change the message. Colin Kaepernick kneels, it had nothing to do with the troops. It had to do with social injustice, and everyone tried to change the narrative. How about staying on what we are talking about and dealing with that, instead of trying to trick us or change or trick your constituents? How about being real?

“I guarantee you, we’ve done more for the military than probably that Senator. And I guarantee you this: We also are going to do things for Black Lives Matter. How about him? Maybe he should join into that.”

Well said, Doc. Well said.

NBA players and coaches will continue to speak out throughout the Orlando restart, and there will be steps toward action. In an election year, expect other politicians to try and use that as a cheap opportunity to grandstand.

Unknown long-term effects of COVID-19 has team execs concerned

NBA COVID-19
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Doctors and scientists studying the coronavirus and COVID-19 are concluding this is not a respiratory disease, but a vascular one. That means the virus does not attach in the lungs and the airway, like the influenza virus; instead, this coronavirus attaches to blood vessels. This means any area of the body where there are smaller blood vessels — the heart, lungs, kidney, brain, and more — is at risk of long-term damage from mini-clots in those vessels (something found in autopsies of some COVID-19 victims).

The heart issues in particular — and everything we don’t know about a virus that is still only about 10 months old — has NBA team executives concerned about the long-term effects on players as they head to Orlando for the restart of the season.

Baxter Holmes of ESPN had fantastic insight on this subject, speaking to team officials for his story.

“There are unknown effects it has on lung capacity, unknown effects it has on cardiac health,” said one general manager of a team entering the NBA bubble, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “What if a 24-year-old catches it in Orlando and, in 14 days, he quarantines and is fine, but then he has these everlasting heart problems? [Or he] gets winded so easily, or he becomes a little bit too susceptible to fatigue? … These are all the unknowns.”

The NBA and the NBPA were particularly focused on the heart and cardiac concerns based on studies that found exercise while ill by people who had even a mild form of COVID-19 increased the risk of heart issues. The NBA’s director of sports medicine John DiFiori put it this way (as general advice) in the ESPN story:

“If you don’t feel well, don’t try to push through this. This is not a situation where anyone, whether you’re an athlete or not, should try to push through or minimize symptoms or try to ignore symptoms and try to push through to try to continue to work or continue to play a sport.”

What that means for players is if they test positive in the Orlando bubble they will be put on a two-week quarantine without exercise or much activity. The challenge then becomes that once said player is cleared they will have lost some conditioning and need to work out to get in shape again — they cannot just step back onto an NBA court and play. The bottom line, if a player tests positive they may be out more than only two weeks.

Ultimately, doctors know little about the long-term impacts of the disease on the body because this strain is so young — even the first people in China who had COVID-19 and recovered did so fewer than nine months ago. There are concerns about impacts on the heart and lung — not to mention other areas of the body — and far more questions than answers.

Which is why the NBA and players union want to be cautious. And why team executives are concerned.

Gregg Popovich had reservations, sees bubble as safest place to be

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gregg Popovich fondly remembers his freshman year at the United States Air Force Academy, even though as a first-year cadet he was extremely limited in where he could go and what activities were allowed.

Lockdown at Walt Disney World, he said, reminded him of those days.

“But two days, anybody can do that,” the San Antonio coach said Saturday.

He made it through that freshman year with ease, made it through the two days of in-room Disney quarantine as well, and now the longest-tenured and oldest active coach in the league is free to roam within the NBA bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have reservations about being part of the NBA restart, given the ongoing issues of racial strife, social inequality, and the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you’re thinking person, you’re going to look at all sides of a situation,” Popovich said. “And, especially being 71 years old, I thought, ‘Is this where I want to spend a lot of my time, doing this, under these circumstances?”‘

The answer was yes, and Popovich was running his first practice in more than four months Saturday as the Spurs began getting ready for a playoff push. When the season resumes July 30, San Antonio will be 12th in the Western Conference – only a half-game from ninth, where the Spurs would have to be and within four games of the No. 8 spot to force their way into a play-in series.

“I honestly do believe – it’s not just being a loyal soldier of the NBA, I’ve done my share of criticizing here and there when I thought it was necessary – I don’t know where else you would be as safe as we are right now,” Gregg Popovich said.

LeBron James completely agrees with that sentiment.

Like the Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers – the West leaders, with James leading the way back into title contention after six consecutive years of not even making the playoffs – took to the Disney practice courts for the first time Saturday. And James said the notion of not being part of the restart “‘never crossed my mind.”

“This beautiful game of basketball, that brings so many people together, that brings happiness, that brings joy to the households, to so many families … I’m happy to be a part of the biggest sports in the world,” James said. “And I’m happy to have a platform where not only people will gain joy from the way I play the game, from the way our team plays the game, but also from what I’m able to do off the floor as well.”

And on the health standpoint, James, like Popovich, raved about what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and many others teamed together to make happen at Disney.

“They took all precautionary reasons, measures to make sure that we as a league are as safe as we can be,” James said. “Obviously, in anything that you do, there can be things that could happen, but we will cross that line if it happens.”

But Popovich’s age called into question whether he should be at the restart.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people 65 and over can be more vulnerable to the virus. The NBA has three head coaches who have celebrated that birthday; New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry, 65; Houston’s Mike D’Antoni, 69, and Popovich. Pelicans assistant Jeff Bzdelik, 67, and Los Angeles Lakers’ assistant Lionel Hollins, 66, are not at Disney for the restart.

“We have special guidelines and special things that we have to abide by,” Spurs forward Rudy Gay said. “I think going into this bubble, everybody has to take the proper precautions and do their own part … not just our team, but other teams. It’s definitely serious. It’s a serious issue. But we vow to do the right thing.”

Popovich points to rising virus numbers in Texas as proof that on the NBA campus, where players and coaches will be tested daily and exposure to the outside world is basically cut off, his health shouldn’t be more at risk.

And to him, this is much more than basketball. The NBA restart will be about raising awareness on social issues and combating racism, and Gregg Popovich wants to be a big part of that conversation.

“If this bubble works, I’m safer here than I would be in Texas,” Popovich said. “And since the decision was made to do this to start the season again, under these circumstances, with all the precautions, what a great opportunity.”

Home to three Pistons titles, the Palace of Auburn Hills demolished

Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of Michigan’s most beloved sports and entertainment venues was turned into rubble on Saturday with a series of controlled explosions.

The shell and roof of the Palace of Auburn Hills, which was home to three championship Detroit Pistons teams and three Detroit Shock teams and played host to some of the world’s biggest musical acts during its nearly 30-year run, crumbled to the ground following a series explosive pops.

The rest of the arena had already been removed.

The Palace, which opened in 1988, held more than 22,000 people for NBA games and up to 23,000 for concerts and other shows, according to nba.com.

After the Pistons relocated in 2017 to downtown Detroit, the arena about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of the city continued to host concerts and music events, the last in September 2017 by rocker Bob Seger.

It also became the second suburban Detroit arena that found little real use after its main sports tenant took its games back to the city.

The Detroit Lions played at the nearby Pontiac Silverdome from 1975-2001 before moving to Ford Field in Detroit. The Pistons also called the Silverdome home for a decade before The Palace opened.

The Silverdome was taken down with a partial implosion in 2017.

William Hall, a project manager for Schostak Brothers & Co., told the Oakland Press of Pontiac that the Palace site should be cleared of debris by the end of the year.

A new mixed-use development project is planned for the site.

“There have been some companies we’ve already talked to about possible development of the property,” Hall said. “I would say we’ve had conversations with at least half-a-dozen people. This property is very interesting and for a lot of businesses, its proximity is very attractive.”