‘Much Is Unpredictable.’ NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Can’t Guarantee NBA Restart as Coronavirus Cases Rise

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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country, especially in states like Florida—home to two NBA franchises, and most crucially the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex that is slated to host the restart of the 2019-2020 NBA season—NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a TIME100 Talks discussion that there’s no guarantee the 22 NBA teams who qualified for the relaunched season will even travel to Central Florida. Teams are tentatively scheduled to arrive in Orlando between July 7-9.

“[It’s] never ‘full steam no matter what,’” says Silver in a Talk that aired Tuesday. “One thing we’re learning about this virus is that much is unpredictable.”

Even if the teams make it to Orlando, Silver recently said that a “significant spread” of COVID-19 at the Disney World complex could cause a cancellation of the 2019-2020 campaign, even if it relaunches as expected in late July. The season initially came to a halt on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

But what would constitute a “significant spread?”

“Honestly … I’m not sure,” Silver says. “We have a panel of scientists, doctors, experts that are working with us. We’re going to see as we go.” The NBA, he says, will be constantly monitoring the data. “Certainly, if we have a lot of cases, we’re going to stop,” he says. “You cannot run from this virus. I am absolutely convinced that 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 ultimately open.”

The NBA recently tested 302 players for COVID-19; 16 of those players were positive. “It’s not alarming based on what we’re seeing in the broader population,” says Silver. “In many ways, it was somewhat predictable. Where I’m most relieved … is that among those 16 positive tests, there are no severe cases.” On June 29, two Brooklyn Nets players, center DeAndre Jordan and guard Spencer Dinwiddie, tested positive; Jordan said he won’t be in Orlando, and Dinwoodie’s status is uncertain.

Health risks alone, players like Kyrie Irving have argued, shouldn’t cause the NBA to rethink its plans. A scrapped season could have afforded players more time to engage in social activism, a cause more pressing than ever following the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent national reckoning on racial justice. Silver, however, believes that with so many eyes attuned to the NBA during the restart, the players can use their platforms to do good. ESPN has reported that

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