NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is bracing for several more weeks of uncertainty about the remainder of this halted season, revealing Monday night that he does not expect the league will be able to decide anything until at least May.
Silver spoke on the NBA's Twitter account as part of the league's new NBATogether initiative, in a conversation hosted by Turner Sports' Ernie Johnson. Silver touched on many topics, including how the league is looking at numerous scenarios for a return, but in every case the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible right now to move too far forward.
"Essentially, what I've told my folks over the last week is that we just should just accept that, at least for the month of April, we won't be in a position to make any decisions," Silver said. "And I don't think that necessarily means on May 1 we will be."
The NBA was the first of the major U.S. pro leagues to shut down because of the COVID-19 threat, doing so after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league to test positive for the virus. The league's regular season was to end April 15, and the playoffs were to begin April 18.
That isn't going to happen, and that has been known for some time. The NBA wants this season to resume, but simply cannot say with any certainty if it will or will not happen.
"We miss it badly," Silver said. "To all the families watching this, I know the NBA is a big part of their lives. We just want to assure everybody that while we're putting the health and safety of everyone first, we're looking at every possibility to get our players back on the floor and to play NBA basketball again."
Among the decisions that have yet to be made, Silver said: whether the regular season will resume in some form or if the NBA would go immediately into the playoffs - assuming the league can salvage this season at all.
Also on the drawing board: if games would be played in NBA arenas or practice facilities, how televising games would work and if the league would take everybody to one site to finish the season. Cities have expressed interest in that option and have reached out to the NBA to say as much, Silver said.
"We're in listening mode right now," he said.
The news likely wasn't unexpected, but it still hit All-Star center Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat hard when told that no decision on the fate of the season is expected anytime soon.
"It's a whole spectrum of the unknown," Adebayo told The Associated Press after Silver spoke. "But at the end of the day, it's about safety, it's about our families and it's bigger than us. It's a global thing and we've all got to take it even more seriously."
Silver also discussed Saturday's 45-minute conference call that he and other major U.S. sports leaders had with President Donald Trump. The president said he had been watching some replays of past major sports events, then asked the commissioners and others for their thoughts.
"It wasn't just a pep talk, but I think it was a reminder of what the meaning is of sports to Americans, to our culture in particular," Silver said. "What came back from all the leagues collectively was once we get the all-clear, however that's determined, of course with public health officials and by our government ... we're going to be ready to go. But first and foremost is the health and safety of everyone involved."
It has been, by far and for obvious reasons, the most personally trying season of Silver's tenure as commissioner. The NBA got into a major and costly rift with China in October after Houston general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong around the same time as the league was making its annual visit to that basketball-wild nation for two preseason games that became incredibly awkward. Commissioner Emeritus David Stern, Silver's predecessor and mentor, died Jan. 1. Kobe Bryant, who was announced as a Hall of Fame inductee on Saturday, died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others.
Silver spoke in mid-February about how he had concerns about the coronavirus threat. By mid-March, it had shut down his league and now, in many ways, much of the world is shuttered. As he said in an interview with AP late last month, Silver said he feels a responsibility for 55,000 people who generate at least some of their income by working in the NBA or at NBA games.
"That's what's keeping me up at night," Silver said.
There is also some very personal worry for Silver right now: His wife is expecting their second daughter, due to arrive in mid-May.
"There's a bit of additional anxiety in terms of going into a New York City hospital in the middle of all this," Silver said.
New York has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, and its healthcare system has been tested perhaps like never before by the demands of the pandemic.
"I think we're going to see a new approach to a lot of these problems," Silver said. "And maybe we were a little bit behind. This is a cruel wake-up call in many ways, given that we're talking about an enormous number of human lives, but we will come out of this better."
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When the NFL Draft happens on April 23, the best technology available will be at the Ravens’ staff’s fingertips.
They’ll also have to conduct the draft more like what was conducted in the 1980s as compared to present day.
With league-wide shutdowns of team facilities, all NFL teams will have to conduct their own drafts with each individual front office member in their homes. In a way, that means it’s business as usual for the Ravens.
“I don’t think it’s really going to be that much different than we’ve been accustomed to,” general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We had the opportunity to meet with so many different players at the Senior Bowl and the East-West combine, we really prepared to be the best we can be. The thing we come back to, it’s been this way ever since I know I got into the league, it’s really about the tape, how the guy plays.”
The Ravens will have to navigate the draft, though, without a traditional war room for the staff to congregate in. There, they’ll have to make draft choices and trades remotely.
“We did a lot of work in person in February and also in December to get ready for these meetings,” DeCosta said. “There are some challenges associated, nothing major, but we’re excited for the opportunity and we think it’s going to work out well for us.”
The draft board this year, DeCosta said, will have 185 players that they consider to be “draftable” players for the Ravens. Of that number, 25 of which are wide receivers. He’ll have to make those selections over Zoom, the video-conferencing service.
Coach John Harbaugh’s mind isn’t exactly at ease over Zoom, either.
“Every time I read something in The Wall Street Journal or New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is or some of these other deals that came out this morning, I immediately text it to our IT people,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got some real concerns about that, and hopefully we’ll be okay. I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings.”
The draft board and meetings that Harbaugh would like to keep internally will assuredly discuss the bevy of wide receivers available in this year’s class. Three first-round locks appear to be two Alabama receivers, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, and Ceedee Lamb of Oklahoma.
Denzel Mims, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins and Jalen Reagor all could find themselves picked in the first 32 selections, too.
“There’s a lot of really good players, obviously the receivers class is prolific by many people’s standards," DeCosta said. "There’s probably 25 draft-able wideouts in this draft. Very very talented running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends. We’re going to look at the board, we’re going to assess the strengths and weaknesses at every position when we’re on the clock.”
Baltimore has nine picks in the draft, including seven in the first four rounds. While the opportunity of trading up, or down, exists, DeCosta wasn’t shy about what those picks could mean for the Ravens in the 2020 season.
“I think with the influx of juniors every year, we see that drafts tend to be stronger in the last five-to-seven years than they have been,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys this year we feel like will have a really good opportunity with our first seven picks to really get some outstanding football players that can come in immediately and pay dividends for us.”
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