Appearing on ESPN’s NBA Today (video links) on Tuesday, league commissioner Adam Silver told Malika Andrews that, despite having an increasing number of its teams affected by outbreaks of COVID-19, the NBA has no intention of putting the 2021/22 season on hiatus.
“(There are) no plans to pause the season,” Silver said. “We’ve of course looked at all the options, but frankly, we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now. … It seems for us that the right and responsible thing to do, taking all the factors into consideration, is to continue to play.”
As Silver explained, the NBA’s stance is that there’s no chance at this point of eradicating the virus, so the league and its teams will have to learn to “live with it.” The NBA and the players’ union recently agreed to tweak a handful of roster rules to make it easier for teams to sign replacements when players test positive for COVID-19, which should help avoid postponements.
Silver made several more interesting comments during his ESPN appearance. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Silver said that very few of the individuals around the NBA who have received a booster vaccination shot have experienced breakthrough cases, and most of those cases have been asymptomatic. Silver estimated that about 97% of NBA players are vaccinated, but only about 65% have been boosted — the league is hoping to push that number higher.
- Asked if the league has revisited the idea of mandatory vaccinations for players, Silver said it hasn’t been broached recently. “I’d rather focus on the 97% than the 3%,” Silver said, referring to the league’s vaccinated players. “Incidentally, many of the 3% have now gotten COVID, so they’ve developed antibodies. To me, the focus right now is on boosters for the 97% of players who have been vaccinated.”
- The NBA isn’t prepared to allow vaccinated players who have asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to play, but is “actively” exploring ways to reduce the amount of time players have to spend in the protocols. “I think (medical experts are) already realizing that you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players who are vaccinated and boosted,” Silver said. “It seems that the virus runs through their systems faster. They become not just asymptomatic but – more importantly – they’re not shedding the virus anymore.”
- Most of the players testing positive this month have contracted the Omicron variant of COVID-19, according to Silver. “It’s beyond dominant in the league right now,” he said. “We’re up probably around 90% of the cases right now that we’re sequencing are Omicron.”