Ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat last night, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked about the possible start date of the next NBA season, the return of fans to arenas, and what he’s most proud of about ‘the bubble’.
On the player boycott in the NBA:
Adam Silver: “Number one, I prefer not to refer to it as a boycott. To me, a boycott is when your employees or a group of people are seeking through economic leverage to change the conduct of somebody. I felt in this case, in our partnership with the players, I understood how — after the fact understood more about how it unfolded with the Milwaukee Bucks. But I never viewed this as necessarily aimed at the league. I think there was a larger message that the players wanted to make here. I prefer to view it as a work stoppage…
“I’d say to me, certainly it began with what’s important to our players is important to us, but it wasn’t just our players. The players know and the NBA community knows there’s a long history in this league of fighting for social justice, for racial equality. And it seemed appropriate… I think that given the circumstances, I still firmly believe it was and is the right thing to do.”
On the possible start date of next season:
Adam Silver: “I don’t know the answer to most of your questions. I’ve said previously that the earliest we would start at this point is Christmas. That’s been a traditional tentpole date for the league, but it may come and go. I’ve also said probably the greater likelihood is we’ll start in January. But remember, if we start in January, it means training camps have begun roughly three weeks earlier, and part of the consideration is that for these players, as I said at the open, in the longest season in the history of the NBA, many of them have continued training throughout the break, Finals will end in roughly mid-October, and they need a break physically and mentally. There’s no question about that… So that gets us clearly into December. So as I said, Christmas the earliest, more likely January.”
On the return of fans to arenas:
Adam Silver: “Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season. So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite. My sense is that with rapid testing… it may not be that we’ll have 19,000 people in the building, we’ll see, but that with appropriate protocols in terms of distancing and with advanced testing that you will be able to bring fans back into arenas.”
On what he is most proud of about the bubble:
Adam Silver: “I’d say I’m most proud that we collectively came together as a community and pulled this off. By that I mean all of the stakeholders. The players, the team governors, 30 teams, not just 22 teams, the support we received from our fans who have been of course watching these games and participating in social media. Our team communities, both back home where the teams play and the community here, the greater community in Orlando who’s been participating. And especially frankly given all the division in our country right now, the fact that people could set their minds to something, come together, make enormous sacrifices, compromise.
“This required a lot of compromise on everybody’s part, and then pulled this off… The pride of the sense that we’ve accomplished this against many obstacles, and at a time also when I think people needed to see this, and I’ll just maybe end with this comment, that sort of one of the bedrock principles always of this league has been to inspire people and to bring people together, and hopefully we have inspired people, that by seeing these players on the floor despite missing their families and playing in isolation and turmoil in their communities and social justice issues, that they’re doing their jobs and they’re making it work.
“I think that is inspiring. And I think it’s also an opportunity to see people come together through the commonality of sports, that it’s something that — especially given the last questioner; the fact is this is something that people are following globally. This isn’t just uniquely a U.S. issue, and it’s something in the time of a pandemic that’s affecting everyone in the world. People can have that commonality of loving NBA basketball… So I’d say those are the things I’m most proud of.”