Having discussed at length with NBA owners whether to take a hiatus due to safety concerns because of the coronavirus, commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he opted to suspend the season shortly after canceling the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game Wednesday night following Rudy Gobert’s positive test for COVID-19.
NBA owners have been encouraging Silver to reevaluate the league’s suspension of play in 30 days, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Silver, in an interview on TNT, confirmed that the NBA will take that 30-day hiatus and use the time to further discuss whether the league can resume play and how it can do so.
“Of course the issue becomes now, what we determined today, is that this hiatus will be most likely at least 30 days,” Silver said. “And we don’t know enough to be more specific than that. But we wanted to give direction to our players and teams and fans that this is going to be roughly at least a month.
“But then the question becomes is there a protocol frankly with or without fans in which we can resume play,” Silver continued. “I think the goal [is] … what makes sense here without compromising anyone’s safety. It’s frankly too early to tell.”
Later Thursday, in a letter addressed to NBA fans, Silver made it clear that the league has every intention of resuming the season “if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.”
“In the meantime, we will continue to coordinate with infectious disease and public health experts along with government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming our games,” Silver wrote.
Silver also said tickets already purchased for a postponed game “will be honored when the game is rescheduled.” If games are not played or played in an empty arena, teams will work with fans “on a credit for a future game or a refund.”
“This remains a complicated and rapidly evolving situation that reminds us that we are all part of a broader society with a responsibility to look out for one another,” Silver wrote. “That is what the NBA will continue to do.”
The NBA had two full board of governors meetings Wednesday and Thursday. Silver also has been in discussions with Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and Thunder guard Chris Paul, president of the players’ union, about the NBA season moving forward and how.
With the understanding that things are fluid and changing, teams were advised that players can work out individually but with no group workouts conducted for now. Los Angeles Lakers players were told on a team conference call that they can coordinate one-on-one workouts at the team facility, with the team slotting times so players do not come into contact with one another, sources told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
The situation and concern for health and safety over the coronavirus pandemic have changed rapidly. The league announced Wednesday that games had been suspended after Utah’s Gobert was diagnosed with the coronavirus. On Thursday, sources said Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also had been diagnosed with the virus. Both Jazz players confirmed the positive tests on their Instagram accounts.
“The truth is up until a few days ago or even up until yesterday, the experts were unclear as to whether as a public health matter, NBA arenas should be emptied,” Silver said of how rapidly things changed. “I think there was a clear consensus that for people over 70 [years old] or people who have any underlying ailment or compromised immunity system that they should not be coming but again it was an open issue.
“We made that decision [to suspend the season], since I knew I had had the benefit of several hours of meetings that day with representatives of every team on the issue of hiatus,” Silver added. “In that moment we made the decision that we should be taking a hiatus knowing again we would have a chance to meet and have further discussions today.”