NBA releases schedule, but Silver admits risk exists

With the number of cases shooting up in the country, NBA's Adam Silver says the league's “bubble” in Florida can't be made fully safe from the coronavirus.

Adam Silver

Adam Silver stated the fact that Florida, where the NBA season will be completed, set a record with around 9,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday was a cause of concern.   -  AP Photo

Even as the NBA was unveiling its schedule for the conclusion of the regular season, commissioner Adam Silver admitted on Saturday that the league's “bubble” in central Florida can't be made totally safe from the coronavirus.

The league is bringing 22 of its 30 teams to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, for the resumption of play. Each team will compete in eight “seeding games” to complete the regular season, and the playoffs will follow, all at the Disney site.

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Action will commence July 30 with the Utah Jazz facing the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Los Angeles Clippers taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in a doubleheader.

The Jazz will to be one of the first teams returning after it was the team that prompted the NBA's shutdown when All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11. The season has been in hiatus since, but teams are set to arrive at the Disney campus for training by July 11.

Earlier, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association finalised the protocols for the Disney “bubble.” The agreement comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are spiking in Florida.

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Silver said on a conference call Friday, “We know that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now. ...

“My ultimate conclusion is that we can't outrun the virus, and that this is what we're gonna be living with for the foreseeable future -- which is why we designed the campus the way we did. And so it's a closed network; and while it's not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us. At least, that's the model.

“So for those reasons, we're still very comfortable being in Orlando.”

The NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement Friday that 16 of the 302 NBA players who were examined Tuesday tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Silver added that Florida setting a record with around 9,000 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday is worrying.

“The level of concern has increased, not just because of the increased levels in Florida, but throughout the country,” he said. “At least today, I believe, 29 of the 50 states have an increased number of cases. Of course, we designed our campus, in essence, to isolate ourselves from whatever the level of cases was in the surrounding community.

“But since we designed our initial protocol, we are continuing to work with Disney on the testing of at least a subset of their employees that could potentially be in the same room as our players, and anyone else who's tested daily on our campus. So we are satisfied that, once we work through those additional measures with Disney, we will continue to have a safe setting for us to resume our season.”

The commissioner wasn't ready to reveal the NBA's intentions should a COVID-19 outbreak occur among players.

“I think we want to get down on the ground and start to see how our testing is working and how the protocols are working and then we'll make decisions as we go,” Silver said.

The league also will address the recent calls for social justice in the wake of George Floyd's death.

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, the NBPA president, told reporters, ”We ... understand how powerful our voice is, and so even if we're back to playing, we understand that our voice can still be heard, our message can still be screamed loud and clear on an unbelievable platform.

“So just know that you're going to continue to hear us. Just know that. It's never a 'shut-up-and-dribble' situation. You're going to continue to hear us and see us.”

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said the players have been in discussions about what protests would be held and how they will be done.

“I can't imagine anything healthier than that,” Roberts said. “I would've been ashamed had there not been a conversation. If the players had been talking about getting back to play and nothing else, frankly, as an African-American woman, I would've been disappointed.”

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