NEW YORK — With no entirely risk-free path to play, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver said he hopes the league can be a model for other industries to safely reopen when it resumes its season.
Players from 22 teams will live, train and play in a so-called bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with tipoff for the fan-free games set for July 30, months after the league abruptly suspended its season in March due to COVID-19.
Teams are expected to begin traveling to Orlando on July 7. Walt Disney Co. also owns sports network ESPN and US broadcast television network ABC which carry many NBA games.
“There’s no way of knowing where this pandemic is going and what we’ve concluded is we simply can’t run from it,” Silver said in a Time 100 Talks video.
“Like so many other industries, we’re looking to find the right balance between health and safety on one hand and economic necessity on the other.”
Players will be tested daily at the Disney campus, said Silver, who does not plan to be on site for the entire duration of play.
“I’m absolutely convinced that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus,” said Silver.
The NBA is among numerous leagues and sports governing bodies in North America to see positive COVID-19 tests among its ranks in recent days, with the Denver Nuggets reportedly closing the team training facility after two members of the organization tested positive.
Florida is also among the many US states to see a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, a trend that Silver said the league was watching closely. “Our model was designed to protect us and our players from cases in the outside community,” he said. “Maybe at the time we designed it we didn’t think it would be as necessary as it is now but at least we’re preparing for it.”
SPREAD TO HALT SEASON
Meanwhile, spread of the coronavirus would prompt the NBA to stop the 2019—20 season, said Silver.
The NBA commissioner said the league is “reasonably confident” about its plan to restart the season but if the virus spreads among players and personnel in Florida, they have no choice but to pull the plug.
“Never full steam ahead no matter what,” Silver said.
He said they are working closely with medical experts and plan to modify guidance and recommendations based on all available information. — Reuters