Adam Silver says NBA won’t pause season despite outbreaks – The Washington Post

Faced with dozens of positive coronavirus tests that have forced the postponement of seven games over the last week, Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday that the NBA will continue its 2021-22 season as its Christmas Day showcase games approach.

“No plans right now to pause the season,” Silver said in a televised interview with ESPN. “We have looked at all the options, but frankly we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now. … This virus will not be eradicated and we’re going to have to learn to live with it.”

Back in October, Silver said that he hoped the 2021-22 season would “look a lot more like normal” after the league’s previous two seasons were shortened and severely altered by the pandemic. The NBA enjoyed relative stability until late November, when enhanced player testing around the Thanksgiving holiday led to the first significant batch of positive tests.

All told, more than 100 players have entered protocols in December, including stars like Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Trae Young. Eight of the 10 teams scheduled to play on Christmas currently have players in the health and safety protocols, and the uncertain availability of key players threatens to spoil the most important date on the league’s regular season calendar.

Roughly 90 percent of the NBA’s current cases, Silver revealed Tuesday, have been identified as the omicron variant. The decision to play through this latest wave was influenced by the fact that 97 percent of NBA players have been vaccinated and 65 percent have received a booster shot.

The Commissioner said that booster shots have proved to be “highly effective,” as “only a very small number” of boosted players have dealt with breakthrough cases and most have “essentially been asymptomatic or very mild symptoms.” Additionally, Silver said that players who have received boosters might be able to return more quickly than the NBA’s typical 10-day isolation period because “it seems that the virus runs through their systems faster.”

While the NFL announced Saturday that it would eliminate testing on unvaccinated and asymptomatic players, Silver said that the NBA was “not quite there yet” in instituting a similar policy. Such an approach would probably reduce the disruptions to the season but also potentially lead to increased spread.

Several teams, including the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors, have dealt with recent outbreaks that severely compromised their ability to field competitive rosters. Silver acknowledged that relying on replacement players to weather such situations comes with a “certain amount of unfairness,” but he added that his “sense [was] that things will work out by the end of the season.”

“When we shut down in March of 2020, a lot of people paid attention for the first time and took this virus seriously,” Silver said. “As we’re dealing with the current situation, 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, that we can find a safe and responsible way to keep going.”