Adam Silver at a press conference in New Orleans during All-Star weekend

Adam Silver on ESPN: NBA community feels obligation to try to return to play

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

In just over a half-decade at the helm of the NBA, Commissioner Adam Silver has been presented with several significant challenges. Silver indicated during a Monday interview with ESPN that the one he and the league are currently facing sits near the top of that list of adverse situations. While acknowledging that the circumstances may not be perfectly ideal for participating teams, players, coaches and referees, Silver reiterated to host Mike Greenberg that the NBA is continuing to work toward its goal of resuming the sport this summer.

“We’re dealing with extraordinary circumstances,” Silver said of trying to return to work while addressing COVID-19 concerns. “This is an incredibly unique circumstance, and what we’re trying to do has never been done before, as far as I know. To find a way to create our own sense of normality, through all of these incredibly difficult societal forces. Sacrifice in terms of…  how players and coaches will be living on this (proposed Orlando) campus, are all part of that. I don’t want to sugarcoat it.

“It will entail enormous sacrifices, (for) those players, the coaches, the referees. Listen, it’s not an ideal situation. We’re trying to find our way to our own normal, in the middle of a pandemic, a recession or worse – with 40 million or more unemployed – and now with enormous social unrest across the country.”

Silver described the initiative to get back on the court as being partly motivated by the notion that an integral purpose of the league is to provide a spotlight and platform for its players. As detailed during ESPN’s show, other professional sports are all planning to return as well in the near future, but they are at varying stages of those plans.

“It’s more a sense from the entire NBA community that we have an obligation to try this,” Silver said of the effort to play. “Because the alternative is to stay on the sidelines. The alternative is to, in essence, give in to this virus. We will ultimately find a vaccine or some sort of anti-virals that will help deal with the conditions of COVID-19, but for us we feel like this is what we do: We put on NBA basketball. We think for the country, it will be a respite from enormous difficulties that people are dealing with in their lives right now, and also (on) social justice issues, it will be an opportunity for NBA players to draw attention to these issues, because the world’s attention will be on the NBA and Orlando, if we’re able to pull this off.”

Silver also acknowledged the inevitability that many NBA teams will have brief offseasons compared to the normal basketball calendar. The Finals are projected to conclude in mid-October, with ’20-21 training camps potentially starting the following month in November. Even for teams that do not advance beyond the eight seeding games in Orlando, it will be a relatively quick turnaround before next season, but NBA teams and players have also been dormant for three-plus months since mid-March.

“We’ve had turnarounds like that for some players who’ve competed in Olympic or some (international) competition, so it’s not unprecedented,” Silver said of a very brief offseason for 2020 NBA Finals participants, for example. “Will the turnaround be quicker than normal? Absolutely… The conversations we’ve had with Michele (Roberts) and the players (on starting next season) are tentative dates. We need to work through them.”

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