NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke to Malika Andrews of ESPN on Tuesday and gave an update on where the league is right now as far as COVID-19. With the postponement of games and the replacement player rule, there have been questions about what the NBA plans to do going forward, or even if the league plans to go forward at all given the huge rash of positive tests we've seen in the NBA.
Adam Silver: No plans to stop or pause the season
Andrews asked the most important question first: Does the NBA have any plans to stop or pause the season given the new variant of COVID-19 that's been spreading around the league?
Silver gave an emphatic no. He said there have been numerous discussions about contingency plans, but he and other NBA executives have been "having trouble" finding the logic in stopping or pausing play right now. Since he believes that the virus will not be eradicated, "we have to learn to live with it." The NBA continuing forward is essentially them learning to live with COVID-19.
“No plans right now to pause the season. We’ve, of course, looked at all the options, but frankly we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now.”
—Adam Silver on the state of the NBA at this moment. pic.twitter.com/wCBubqfw09
— ESPN (@espn) December 21, 2021
Christmas games still going on as planned
As usual, the NBA has a robust slate of games scheduled on Christmas Day. The teams themselves, meanwhile, are struggling with players entering the league's COVID-19 protocol. The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics each have six players in the protocol, and the Brooklyn Nets have 10.
Despite that, Silver said that there's no plan to postpone any of those games. They do have contingency plans in place in case something happens, but Silver didn't reveal any details.
"It seems for us that the right and responsible thing to do, taking all the factors into consideration, is to continue to play," Silver said.
Not yet ready to let asymptomatic players play
Silver said that the NBA isn't planning to allow asymptomatic players to play just yet, and also won't reduce testing to only symptomatic players. He said that that could possibly happen in the future, but the NBA would need to look at the tremendous amount of data they have from testing and vaccine records.
The main reason for that, at least for now, is that players who are fully vaxxed — those who have received three doses of the vaccine, including the booster shot — have been testing positive at a very small rate. Since there's such a low occurrence of breakthrough positives, Silver said the NBA is focusing on encouraging players to get the booster shot. He pointed out that the around 97% of players are vaccinated, but they're at just 65% for the booster shot. There's also been no discussion of implementing a vaccine mandate, which has been a non-starter with the NBPA. Silver added that 90% of positive COVID-19 tests in the league are from the omicron variant.
Silver did say that they're looking into the possibility of adjusting the protocol to shorten the testing window, which would allow asymptomatic players to get back onto the court sooner. Again, Silver said that the NBA isn't there yet, but they're constantly evaluating the data they have as well as what other sports leagues are doing.
After Silver's appearance on ESPN, the NBPA said it would facilitate getting booster shot to eligible players and encourages all players to get a booster as soon as they are eligible.