SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a waiting game.
But at this point, the NBA doesn’t quite know what it’s waiting on — or for how long. When the league shut down just over a week ago after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, it was called a hiatus. But now? There’s some doubt if the season can even be salvaged.
“I have certainly learned in this job, and in this process, that when people do pretend they can predict the future they are generally wrong,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN on Wednesday.
No one would have predicted eight days ago the NBA would stop playing indefinitely. Likewise, no one can predict — not even Silver himself — when games will begin again. Silver initially said no less than 30 days. A week later, he’s now realized just a month off was far too optimistic.
Could we be looking at the NBA Finals in August or September? And with how the league is known to experiment — think back to last month’s All-Star Game as an example — the long layoff might just lead to a postseason testing ground for the league.
“I’m optimistic by nature, and I want to believe that we are going to be able to salvage at least some portion of this season,” Silver said.
On Friday, the league will shut down training facilities, KSL.com has confirmed, to staff and players to further help stop the spread of the virus. Seven NBA players — including Gobert and teammate Donovan Mitchell — have already tested positive.
It’s the latest step for a league to help mitigate the effects of the virus that has upended life throughout the world.
A message from Coach Quin Snyder ❤️ pic.twitter.com/wsNwG9JqYg— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 19, 2020
The NBA was the catalyst for the nation’s economy effectively shutting down last week. Eight days ago, the novel coronavirus was a punch line to many. After Gobert’s positive test and the NBA ceasing operations, just about everyone followed suit.
"People were not taking these protocols all that seriously until the NBA did what it did," Silver said.
In the last week, businesses have mandated employees work from home, restaurants aren't able to serve dine-in customers, and more and more people are going into self-imposed quarantine.
“Team has always been our identity, and that extends to all within the state of Utah,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said in a prepared statement directed to the Utah community. “We will navigate these uncharted waters together. Right now, we are all sacrificing in our own unique ways — for our health and for the greater good — and that is critical. That is the epitome of teamwork in a much more significant way right now.”
But just as the NBA was the one of the first shut down, Silver has hopes of the league being among the first to help restart the economy and return some sense of normalcy to fans.
That could mean welcoming back fans into arenas like the good old days of, well, last week. That could mean playing in empty arenas but televising games so the majority of fans could still have access to them. Or, if the virus proves too hard to control in league circles, simply putting on exhibition contests to allow fans at home to be able to watch something.
“You take a subset of players, and is there a protocol in which they could be tested and quarantined, isolated in some way, and they can compete against each other? People are stuck at home and I think they need a diversion. They need to be entertained,” Silver said.
The NBA, though, isn’t sure when things can realistically happen. Because, for now, the league's coaches, players and staff are just like everyone else: staying at home and waiting.
“Please make sure you all continue to follow their (health experts) advice, and that of state and public officials,” Snyder said. “And keep your families safe.”