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NBA commissioner Adam Silver explores potential ways league could return

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attends the second round of the NBA playoffs and Game 3 in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s only been just over a week since the NBA season came to a standstill after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and the NBA suspended its season last Wednesday, but it feels longer.

Since then, every major sports league followed suit and the NCAA cancelled all winter and spring tournaments, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Live sports have been halted, with no sports-related content to watch besides talk shows and reruns of games.

Originally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league would take a 30-day hiatus and reevaluate from there, but on Sunday, the CDC recommended that events with 50 or more people be cancelled or postponed for at least eight weeks.

Silver joined ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on SportsCenter to discuss the various forms in which the league could eventually resume.

“One of the things that we’re very focused on at the league office and together with our teams is what are the conditions that we would need to restart?” Silver said.

Silver and the NBA are looking at three scenarios and conditions in which the league could start up again.

The first option would be restarting as the NBA has always operated, with fans in the stands.

The second option would be playing without fans.

“Presumably, if you had a group of players and staff around them, and you could test them and you could follow some protocol — doctors, health officials may say it’s safe to play,” Silver said.

The third option would be holding an exhibition game to raise money for charity.

“The third option that we’re looking at now, I would say all suggestions welcome, is that I mentioned the impact to me on the national psyche of having no sports programming on television. One of the things we've been talking about, are there conditions in which a group of players could compete — maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser or just for the collective good of the people,” Silver said.

“We’re going to try by every means we can to play basketball again, but the safety and health of our players is first, and our fans.” — NBA commissioner Adam Silver

If players could be tested for the coronavirus and isolated, they could possibly play in a charity game.

“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.

One of the thoughts from Silver is that the NBA could be a first mover among sports leagues to help get the economy going again, noting that NBA accounts for roughly 55,000 jobs.

“One of the thoughts I’ve heard from several of our teams and something that I’ve been thinking about a lot is, to the extent that we were the first to shut our league down, in what way can we be a first mover to help restart the economy?” Silver said. “When you think about public health, of course shutting down the economy — I’m not criticizing the fact that we’re doing it right now, I’m following whatever the directives are — but there’s no doubt that shutting down the economy is a public health matter as well.”

Silver said the NBA could return incrementally, perhaps first without fans.

“We all have to be thinking collectively of what the right balance is. Of course, this is the obligation of government officials: when will it be OK to come back out of our homes and say it's time to reengage with each other?” Silver said. “When I look at the options, maybe we can do this incrementally. The first step isn’t games with thousands of people in the arenas, but maybe it’s just games.”

Silver doesn’t know exactly when NBA games could restart.

“We’re going to try by every means we can to play basketball again, but the safety and health of our players is first, and our fans,” Silver said.