Like many politicians across the nation, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has heard both praise and scorn for how the league handled the pandemic.
There was praise for the commitment to the bubble a year ago, but neither the players nor team staffs wanted to repeat that experience on a personal level. This season saw a condensed schedule, intense testing — players tested three times a day on game days — and still a lot of games postponed due to the disease. There has been plenty of criticism of that plan.
“Lots of different factors went into making these decisions [about this season],” Silver said in his annual pre-Finals media conference. “Again, it’s fair game to second-guess them, and I think frankly we may not know for quite a while, until we’re really able to look back when we know this pandemic is over, whether we made the right decisions or not.”
One thing that did go right, the NBA lost less money than expected, Silver said (and the entire point of this early starting, condensed schedule was to maximize income). He noted that NBA revenue was down by about one-third, which was better than the 40% that was expected.
Silver also said he thought these were the best decisions that could have been made at the time. This was not done in a vacuum, the NBA negotiated with the players union, got the owners’ approval, and had everyone on board for what proved to be a trying season.
“I mean, certainly at this point, looking back on the last year and a half, the bubble seems to have been very effective.
“In terms of this season… I still maintain that, balancing all these various issues, that was still the best outcome out of a variety of unpopular decisions, that it was the best way to balance those factors. But it’s unclear and I accept the criticism. It’s part of the job, whether it comes from players or the media or others, and we’ll see. Maybe it will take a few years to really look back on this season to really understand what we did right and what we did wrong.”
The NBA saw 10 All-Stars — plus Trae Young, who should have been an All-Star — miss time this postseason with injuries. While some of those were flukes that could have happened in any season, there is a feeling with some players and team front office members that the reduced rest built into this season led to an uptick in injuries. It’s what LeBron James was talking about in his Tweet that got headlines.
Silver, for his part, pushed back on the idea that load management is the answer to avoiding injuries.
“The issue which we’re trying to get to the root of is does resting work, frankly? Does load management work?” Silver said. “There’s different theories out there on it. What’s most surprising, as I said it’s not just about injuries up this season. We have seen this upward trend for several years. And you would like to believe that with the investment, the level of sophistication, the number of doctors, the amount of analytics we look at, the data that we collect that we couldn’t in the old days, that putting the pandemic aside, we would have seen improvements and we haven’t seen that yet.”