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NBA commissioner Adam Silver ‘pretty confident’ in Orlando plan, but prepared to stop if needed

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — With the change of the calendar to July, the NBA is now on track to resume play this month in Florida to finish the 2019-20 season, but league commissioner Adam Silver expressed a few reservations Tuesday that could either stop play before it starts or before it’s supposed to end.

Speaking on an episode of Time 100 Talks, Silver said plans to resume are “never ‘full steam ahead’ no matter what.” He called the novel coronavirus “unpredictable” and said, “I think we and our players together with their union, the players’ association, look at the data on a daily basis, and if there were something to change that was outside of the scope of what we’re playing for, certainly we would revisit our plans.”

That said, Silver expressed optimism that plans could move forward. The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans are set to tip off play at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando on July 30.

“I’m pretty confident,” Silver said, “largely because we’re playing on a campus that is confined in that the only way to gain access to that campus is to be part of our protocol where there’s regular testing, and if someone were to leave our campus, they would need to test and quarantine in order to return to play, so at least in terms of the model, we’re protected from the rate of cases in the broader community.”

With case numbers spiking in Florida in recent weeks, Silver acknowledged there was less fear in the numbers when plans to play there started to be made, but added, “Our model was designed for this. Our model was designed to protect us and our players from the cases in the outside community. Maybe at the time we designed it, we didn’t think it would be as necessary as it is now, but at least we’re preparing for it.”

Once play resumes, Silver said spread of the coronavirus within the Orlando “bubble” would be a reason to stop play, but he’s not sure at this point what would be considered significant enough spread to cause that to happen.

“We’re going to see as we go,” he said. “I mean, certainly, if cases are isolated, that’s one thing. I think a lot of the determination will be our understanding of how our community became infected. That will be part of our judgement in terms of whether we should continue, but certainly if we have a lot of cases, we’re going to stop.”