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Adam Silver on the return of the NBA: ‘It’s about the data and not the date’

Adam Silver bubble

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center on February 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver owned up to stealing the line from Bob Iger, the executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company. Silver also said it’s his pat answer when asked about a return for the NBA.

“It’s about the data and not the date.”

Right now, there is not enough data to make any kind of decision. He added not to expect one on May 1, either. Right now, the situation is fluid.

Everything is on the table when it comes to a return, Silver said, from finishing the regular season and playoffs without fans in the building — the “bubble” option — to canceling the season and playoffs. Silver spoke to the media in a conference call following the video-conference NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting Friday (a meeting of the team owners).

“The direction that the league office has received from our teams is, again, all rules are off at this point given the situation we find ourselves in, that the country is in,” Silver is said. “If there is an opportunity to resume play, even if it looks different than what we’ve done historically, we should be modeling it.”

However, Silver emphasized multiple times that player health and safety had to come first. So what are the markers the NBA is looking for to make a return?

“I think we’re looking for the number of new infections to come down. We’re looking for the availability of testing on a large scale,” Silver said.” We’re looking at the path that we’re on for potentially a vaccine. We’re looking at antivirals. On top of that, we’re playing close attention to what the CDC is telling us on a federal level and what these various state rules are that are in place.

“There’s a lot of data that all has to be melded together to help make these decisions. But that’s part of the uncertainty. I think we’re not even at the point where we can say, ‘if only A, B, and C were met, then there’s a clear path.’ I think there’s still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward.”

There is a strong desire to move forward, Silver added. Part of that is the owners being competitive, part of it is frustration by the owners that they cannot control the situation and speed things up on a national level, and part of it is financial. The league is taking a big hit.

“Our revenue, in essence, has dropped to zero,” Silver said. “That’s having a huge financial impact on the team business and the arena business...

“There is a strong recognition that there are thousands of jobs impacted by the NBA, not just the players and the basketball staff. When you include the day-of-game arena workers, the NBA is responsible for roughly 55,000 jobs. That goes to my earlier comment about recognizing that while this virus is of course a dire public health issue, so of course is shutting down the economy. I think it’s why the league sees it as our obligation to the extent we can resume play in a safe way to look at every potential way of doing so. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Silver said the league has listened to pitches from places that want to host the bubble of games, but right now there is no decision to make. The league is just listening.

Silver said the NBA owners discussed:

• An agreement with the players’ union to hold back 25 percent of player paychecks starting May 15 as part of a “force majeure” clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That clause allows owners to withhold a portion of player paychecks for games canceled due to things like war or, in this case, a pandemic.

• The owners were addressed by Dr. David Ho, an infectious disease expert from Columbia University who has worked with the NBA before, going back to when Magic Johnson tested positive for HIV.

“One takeaway was, maybe not surprising, but he reaffirmed that there’s still enormous amounts of this virus yet to be learned,” Silver said. “Again, that’s just where we find ourselves.”

• Disney’s Iger also spoke to the owners, talking about re-opening his massive entertainment empire and how that company is going through the process of deciding when and how to re-open things like their amusement parks and resorts.

• The owners also went over the league’s new deal with Microsoft to be its artificial intelligence and cloud provider. They also discussed the recent changes to the G-League that encouraged two top recruits to choose that path instead of college.