NBA commissioner Adam Silver finds himself almost constantly looking at numbers and financial projections. And like the rest of the world that is dealing with the seismic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, he is still unsure how bad things are going to get.
Silver said on Saturday that the league is considering all options – better, worse and countless ideas in between – while trying to familiarize itself with this new normal. But the definitive answers on any front are scarce.
"It is too early to say what the economic impact will be," said Silver. "We analyze several scenarios daily, if not every hour, and we will continue to analyze the financial implications. Obviously, it is not a beautiful image, but everyone, regardless of the industry in which they work, is in the same boat."
Saturday marked the tenth full day of NBA closure, a stoppage that has cost up to 75 league games so far, a total that will reach three digits on Wednesday and reach 259 on April 15 – the day the regular season era was supposed to end. The game will not be resumed until then. The financial losses will be huge and will obviously continue to grow if this season cannot resume or if the next season is affected.
"Adam is obviously cautious, cautiously optimistic," said Cleveland striker Kevin Love earlier in the week. "We don't know what the future holds, but the NBA has been through a lot, we have seen a lot and I think we will be incredibly resilient. It can take time.
Players who will receive their next salary on April 1 will receive them. Whether these players will receive the April 15 check is at issue; the league can exercise a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows you to recover 1.08% of each player's salary for each game lost at certain times – such as war or, in this case, a pandemic.
This clause has not yet been exercised, as, officially, in any case, no game has been canceled.
"We are exploring all options for resuming our season, if and when it is safe to do so," said Silver. "Nothing is off the table."
In addition, there are other bridges to cross first. The NBA – which was the first major US professional league to say it would play without fans and the first to suspend its season after Utah Jazz's All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive – has been extremely strong in trying to get a huge fan base to take social distance and other preventive measures seriously.
"Our focus now is to do everything we can to support, engage and educate the general public in response to this pandemic," said Silver. "We are also making sure that we are prepared to resume the season if and when it becomes safe for everyone involved."
The league asked the teams for construction availability dates until the end of August, an indicator that this season – if it restarts – could extend into the summer.
So far, there are 14 people in the NBA community, including at least 10 players, who tested positive for COVID-19. Of those positive tests, seven became publicly known on Thursday and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics revealed he has the virus.
"Unfortunately, based on everything we know, significantly more positive cases in our league were inevitable," said Silver. "So Thursday's results were not a big surprise and, like everyone else, we are just trying to enjoy each day as it comes."
For most people, coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia.
As of Saturday, there were about 19,000 positive cases known in the United States and more than 250 deaths attributed to the virus. Globally, there have been almost 300,000 cases diagnosed so far, with almost 12,000 deaths. The virus first exploded in mainland China, where the NBA has offices and about 200 employees.
The work of workers in China helped the league to quickly understand some understanding of gravity. Silver made the decision to end the league before any public health expert advised the NBA to take that step. He even sounded the alarm publicly in mid-February on the NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago – saying it was "a major national, if not global, health crisis" that was taking place.
"We learned a lot from our China office," said Silver, noting that the meetings have been of the virtual variety there for several weeks.
The sixth full season of silver as an NBA commissioner began with the league entering a major breach with China. His mentor and NBA commissioner David Stern died two months later. Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash less than a month after that.
Now he is dealing with the biggest crisis of all – a pandemic, affecting and threatening virtually every corner of the planet.
"It was a challenging season," said Silver. "For all of us."
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