Adam Silver says the NBA would be prepared for the 2019-20 season to “cease completely” if there was a coronavirus outbreak on the league campus in Florida.
The campaign is set to restart on Thursday amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with 22 teams at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando to play eight seeding games and then the playoffs.
But with MLB’s return quickly hampered by a number of positive tests in the Miami Marlins team, prompting postponements, NBA commissioner Silver is wary of potential complications in his own sport.
NBA RESTART: Schedule | Playoff Bracket | Bubble, explained
The league has plans in place for individual confirmed cases, but would act swiftly should the virus pass through a confined campus, as happened in the Marlins’ clubhouse.
“It’s not an exact science, because nobody’s ever done this before,” Silver told Good Morning America on ABC. “We have plans in place where we might pause — similar to what baseball’s doing now. Probably if we had any significant spread at all, we’d immediately stop and what we’d try to do is to track and determine where they’re coming from and whether there had been a spread on campus. I would say, ultimately, we would cease completely if we saw that this was spreading around the campus and something more than an isolated case was happening.”
MORE: Biggest storylines ahead of NBA’s restart
Explaining this approach, Silver said he listened to the players.
“It’s health and safety first. That’s always been our guidepost going into this,” Silver said. “We’ve worked very closely with the Players Association and all the teams on this, and we know — it’s one thing we’ve always pointed out – that it’s about relative safety at this point. When you look at the high case rates not just in Florida but around the country – we also had significant numbers of players testing positive between the time we shut down the season and when we restarted – we jokingly have said, but maybe it’s not so funny, that the safest place in the world may be on this campus at Disney. If that were to turn out to not be the case, we certainly would stop.”
However, Silver is confident ahead of the restart, with the NBA taking a different approach to MLB, where players continue to travel the country to play at home stadiums.
“The word ‘anxious’ would describe how I feel. We’ve been working at this for a long time, but there is a high case rate in Florida, down in Orange County where Orlando is,” Silver said. “We’re seeing what’s happening in baseball with the Marlins, so it’s something we’re continuing to track very closely. Having said that, we have confidence in this protocol that we designed. It’s not actually a sealed ‘bubble’, but everyone that’s on that campus is tested on a daily basis. They’re taking extraordinary precautions. The only time they’re not wearing masks is when they’re actually playing basketball. It’s to the extent that when somebody tests positive, we’ll obviously track them closely. We quarantine people when they first come down. So, we think we have a plan in place that should work.”