NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Says No Plans to Stop Season Due to Increase in COVID-19 Cases

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN’s Malika Andrews that the league has no plans to suspend its season as COVID-19 has increased cases in the league.

“There are no plans at this time to stop the season,” Silver said in an interview on NBA Today Tuesday afternoon. “Of course we’ve looked at all the options, but frankly we’re having trouble thinking about what the logic behind a hiatus would be at the moment.

“As we look through these cases that are literally sweeping across the country, let alone the rest of the world, I think we are finding ourselves where we knew we were going to go in recent months, and that is this virus that will not be eradicated, and we’re going to have to learn to live with that. I think that’s what we’re living in the league right now. “

The NBA has had to postpone seven games in the last week, including five in the last three days, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has swept the league, just as it has in all societies around the world.

Silver said the Omicron strain is “more than dominant” within the league at the moment, something the NBA can track as it has the ability to sequence every positive test it receives from its players, coaches and team members. league.
“We probably increased about 90% of the positive cases that we are seeing now are Omicron,” Silver said.

Silver’s position on not stopping play is in line with the memorandum the league sent to teams Sunday night announcing new rules regarding replacement players, as teams now have much more flexibility to add them immediately. after losing players to the league’s health and safety protocols, and once they have at least two players, they should start signing them.

But one thing he said the league is not yet ready to do is openly change its stance on how long players should stay on the sidelines after a positive test. Currently, NBA health and safety protocols say that a positive test requires staying out for 10 days or performing two negative PCR tests more than 24 hours apart.

Silver, however, told Andrews that the league has seen through the data it has collected that players who have received booster injections have shown no symptoms or have shown very mild symptoms, and have passed through the virus through their systems faster, which could pave the way for the league to shorten the amount of time players must lose at some point in the future.

“We are always measuring viral loads with our PCR test,” Silver said. “So that’s something, again, that it’s not just our doctors, but the medical community is watching. I think they are already realizing that you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players that are vaccinated and with it. reinforcement”.

“It seems like the virus is going through their systems faster. Not only do they become asymptomatic, but more importantly, they no longer spread the virus. That is the real concern in terms of others. So we are actively looking to shorten the number of days players are out before they can return to the court. “

And while Silver said the NBA isn’t ready to change its stance on testing when it comes to asymptomatic players, as, for example, the NFL did over the weekend, he said league data makes clear that Booster shots work, and he’s hopeful that the current percentage of league players who have been both vaccinated with boosters, which is 65%, will only continue to rise.

“We have a lot of data that we look at. In terms of players and coaches who have gone through the three-shot protocol, that is, the two mRNA vaccinations and then the booster, and then the last two weeks, just a very Small of those cases people have been cases of great relevance for the investigation in which they have become positive, “said Silver. “And essentially they have been asymptomatic or very mild symptoms. We are also dealing with a large group that have a J&J injection or have not yet received a booster.

“I would just tell our community, really everyone, at least based on the data the NBA has, that the boosters are highly effective, and we’re encouraging everyone to get them. In fact, in our league right now. , we are vaccinated about 97%, but we have increased to 65% of our players and we are in active discussions with the players association to get that number even higher. So we are not, in terms of your question, in essence If we can treat this as endemic, and people start to move on and we only try the symptomatic ones and treat them, we haven’t gotten to that point yet, but we are paying close attention to what other leagues are doing. “

But while Silver was quick to point out the efficacy of both the vaccine and receiving booster shots, one thing he said that hasn’t been discussed was another push for a league-wide vaccination mandate.

While San Francisco and New York have required that players who play for teams in those markets be vaccinated, a decision that will prevent Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving from playing in home games this season, no other city has followed. his example, and the NBA has not turned around in its proposal to have one with the National Association of Basketball Players before the season begins.

“No,” Silver said, when asked if he had reassessed it. “It is something that we proposed. It is something that the Players Association would not agree with. Having said that, approximately 97% of our players have been vaccinated. So, from my point of view, I prefer to focus on the 97% of our players that 3% AND, by the way, many of the 3% have now contracted COVID, so they have developed antibodies.

“For me, the focus is on boosters for 97% of the players who have been vaccinated. As I said before, among the players who are eligible to receive boosters because, as you know, there is a waiting period after their second injection, but among those who are eligible to get a boost, we are around 65%, and ideally I would like to see that number go to 97% as well. That’s what we’re focused on right now with PA. “

Meanwhile, however, teams are grappling with having to rush to sign replacement players, in many cases, just to fill out their rosters and be able to play in matches. Silver admitted that it is not an ideal situation to be in, but that, ultimately, there are not many alternatives for a league that will continue to play games amid the pandemic that continues to sweep through society.

“I think there is an acknowledgment that these are the cards that we have been dealt,” Silver said. “Of course, there is an amount of injustice that comes with playing in certain cases with some teams where particular players are out due to COVID protocols, but the other advantage is that we have an 82-game season and we have long playoffs, and I have a feeling that things will work out at the end of the season. “