The fate of the NBA season remains unknown as COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, and commissioner Adam Silver said on Monday that the league is "looking at every possibility" for proceeding through uncertain times.
In an interview with TNT's Ernie Johnson Jr., Silver said that while the league office has spent the last four weeks searching for the best way forward, its idea of a solution is no clearer than it was on March 11, when the NBA season was suspended after Rudy Gobert tested positive for novel coronavirus.
“It’s hard to imagine that 3 plus weeks later, we wouldn’t have a better understanding of what’s going on,” Silver said. “The fact is one sitting here today, I know less, in a way, than I did then.”
Silver said that "in a perfect world," the NBA would finish its regular season and proceed with the playoff as scheduled. But as the last three months have demonstrated we are not living in anything resembling a perfect world, and the NBA is bracing for the season to be significantly more affected by COVID-19 than it already has been. While the NBA is "many different scenarios," Silver says it's still too early to know how far away the league is from returning to action.
"We just have too little information to make these predictions," he said. "The virus is potentially moving faster than maybe we had thought at that point [when the season was suspended]. ... What that means in terms of our ability to come back at some point in late spring or summer is still unknown to me."
Silver added that the hiatus could extend long to enough to affect not only the current season, but the 2020-21 season as well. "There does come a point at which we would start impacting next season as well," he said. "Of course, player safety and the health of everyone in the NBA family has to come first," he said.
On a conference call with Donald Trump earlier this week, Silver and other leaders in the sports world talked for roughly 45 minutes about when it might be safe for sports to return in America and the void the absence of live games has created around the world.
"What will the symbolism be of major league sports starting back up in this country?," Silver said. "I think it was a reminder of what the meaning of sports is to Americans.”
Silver noted to Johnson how proud he was of NBA players speaking up and using their platforms to help inform the public with safety tips and information about the severity of this virus. He also said that the league has used this hiatus to re-imagine how fans will experience the NBA moving forward. He said that the league could enforce social distancing measures for the first few games after the league returns and will be more cautious about interaction between players and fans. But Silver also noted a positive opportunity for creativity, innovation, and "more virtual ways that people could experience the game."
"How can we now think about opportunities using this downtime to re-express this experience for our fans?" Silver said.
The NBA also represents approximately 55,000 jobs, many of which could be in jeopardy if the league suspension lasts longer than anticipated. Many team owners -- including Tony Ressler -- have created programs to help keep arena staff and part-time employees working for the time being, but if basketball doesn't resume soon, the long-term viability of those efforts could come into question.
Based on recent reporting, the current trend of the coronavirus in the U.S., and the lack of any definitive steps from the league, it seems unlikely that the current NBA season will resume. In talking with Johnson, Silver repeatedly emphasized the need to consider health and safety above all else, even if it meant putting basketball on the back burner. Unfortunately, it could stay there for a while.
"While we’re putting health and safety of everyone first," Silver said, "we’re looking at every possibility to get our players back on the floor and to play NBA basketball again."