NBA commissioner Adam Silver: ‘Never full steam ahead no matter what’

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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The NBA announced a 22-team resumption at Disney World amid the coronavirus pandemic. Owners approved. Players approved. A schedule has been set. Safety protocols have been established.

But that doesn’t mean games will definitely happen.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via TIME100 Talks:

Never full steam ahead no matter what. I think one thing we’re learning about this virus is much is unpredictable, and I think we and our players together with their union – the Players Association – look at the data on a daily basis. And if there was something to change that was outside of the scope of what we’re planning for, certainly we would revisit our plans.

I would also say: We’re testing daily. We haven’t put a precise number on it, but if we were to see a large number of cases and we were to see spread in our community, that of course would be a cause for us to stop, as well.

It’s good that Silver is willing to pull the plug. Flexibility is so important as conditions change.

For example, increasing cases in Florida means there’s greater risk of coronavirus infiltrating the NBA’s bubble if that bubble is breached. Most experts are still confident in the NBA’s plan, but less confident than when Florida had a lower infection rate. It’s possible cases in Florida rise high enough that the NBA’s plan is no longer sufficiently safe, which could mean altering the plan (perhaps tightening the bubble to include  Disney staff) or even canceling entirely.

So far, the NBA’s plan appears to be working as expected. Some players are testing positive for coronavirus, but that was expected as they rejoined their teams from an outside world ravaged by coronavirus.

If coronavirus is spreading within a team, that’d be a major cause for concern. That hasn’t been shown to be happening, though the Nuggets are investigating after multiple members of the organization tested positive in Denver.

Positive tests would become more alarming later in the process, especially once teams begin activities in Disney World. Silver previously said only a “significant spread” would force the league to halt games at that point.

What constitutes a significant spread?


I’m not sure. We have a panel of scientists, doctors, experts that are working with us. And we’re going to see if we go. Certainly, if cases are isolated, that’s one thing. I think a lot of the determination will be our understanding of how our community became infected. That will be part of our judgment in terms of whether we should continue.

But certainly, if we had a lot of cases, we’re going to stop. As I said earlier, you cannot run from this virus.

I’m absolutely convinced it will be safer on this campus than off this campus, because there aren’t many other situations I’m aware of where there’s mass testing of asymptomatic employees. So, in some ways, this is maybe a model for how other industries can ultimately open.

But I’m only going to say, we will be responsible, and we will watch what’s happening. But the biggest indicator will be if we begin to see a spread within our community.

This all sounds reasonable – except serving as a model for other industries. Few other industries have the resources and financial incentives of professional sports. Frequent testing and creating a closed campus are expensive. This is why coronavirus has been so economically devastating. Plans are usually financially viable or safe, rarely both.

The NBA might have found that middle ground.

But if not, hopefully Silver – after his league invested significantly in this plan – is as willing to reverse course as he says.