Silver says NBA has no plan to pause despite Covid surge

New York (AFP) – The NBA has no plan to pause the ongoing season due to Covid-19 and is looking at shortening the time players must sit out, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday.


Silver, speaking on ESPN, said the league, like society, must learn to live with the virus even with the Omicron variant causing a surge in positive tests -- forcing five games this week to be postponed.

"No plans right now to pause the season," Silver said. "We've, of course, looked at all the options. We've had trouble coming up with what the logic would be for pausing.

"This virus will not be eradicated and we're going to have to learn to live with it.

"It seems the right and responsible thing to do... is to continue to play."

More than 80 players have tested into the NBA's Covid-19 protocols in recent days, causing the league to relax rules on calling in replacement players from development squads.

Silver said the league might shrink the number of days players are sidelined when entering Covid-19 safety protocols.

"We're actively looking at shortening the amount of days a player is out before he can return to the floor," Silver said. "We're comfortable with the protocols we're following right now."

Silver said 97% of NBA players have been vaccinated and 65% have received a booster dose, but he is not pushing for mandatory vaccinations in talks with the players union on safety measures.

"Only a very small number of people have had breakthrough cases and those have been very mild symptoms," Silver said. "The boosters are highly effective.

"Many of the (unvaccinated) 3% have gotten Covid and developed anti-bodies. For me, the focus right now is on boosters for the 97%."

Silver said the virus Omicron variant is the major culprit behind the jump in players entering Covid-19 protocols.

"It's beyond dominant in the league right now," Silver said. "We're up beyond 90% of the cases."

That said, Silver said that it was safe for spectators to attend NBA games -- if they have taken the proper measures.

"People should feel safe going to games," Silver said. "I think it has a lot to do with following proper protocols, being vaccinated, getting boosted, wearing a mask of course makes a big difference. People under those situations should be comfortable living their lives."

"I recognize things could change but right now at least, if people take the proper precautions, I think people should feel comfortable going out."

Regarding the contests, Silver said he recognized the potential talent imbalance that could strike a Covid-hit squad when facing a team at full strength.

"There's a recognition that these are the cards we've been dealt," Silver said. "Of course, there's a certain amount of unfairness that comes with playing in certain cases, with playing with a group of players on some teams where a group of players are out with Covid protocols.

"But the other advantage is we do have an 82-game season and we have a long playoffs and my sense is things will work out by the end of the season."

Significant for society

ESPN reported that the NBA has told the 10 teams scheduled to play Saturday on the Christmas holiday to be prepared for shifts in game times coming as late as Friday.

Silver said only that the league is moving ahead with plans regarding Saturday's games and beyond.

He also saw ways the league's perseverance might set an example much the way the NBA did when it shut down in March of 2020, a move emulated by the rest of North American sports in the days that followed.

"Maybe there's a way we can demonstrate people can move forward," Silver said.

"Our ability to find a way to keep operating is also significant for society, to show that there are ways, despite living in this Covid era, where we can find safe and responsible ways to keep going."