The unknown became a little clearer, the unprecedented got a bit of precedent and the shellshocked NBA got some guidance about what tomorrow will look like after a string of conference calls during the league’s first day under suspension.
Speaking for the first time since Wednesday’s decision to halt league play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the expectation is for the league to be shut down for at least 30 days while the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
“We don’t know enough to be more specific than that, to give direction to our players, teams and our fans that this is going to be roughly at least a month,” Silver said on TNT’s “Inside The NBA” broadcast. “But then the question becomes, ‘Is there a protocol frankly, with or without fans, in which we can resume play?’
“I think the goal, talking a lot to Michelle Roberts with the players association, I talked to Chris Paul, the president of the union earlier tonight, coming together [with] what makes sense here without compromising anyone’s safety. I think it’s frankly too early to tell. It depends how quickly this virus spreads and it also depends on what the theory is going to be in how to treat it.”
Silver said there is a possibility the season could end up wrapping in the summer, with the NBA Finals possibly played in July instead of mid-June. Cancellation is also a possibility.
Lakers players had a conference call with general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Frank Vogel. Players were left with the impression that the league’s owners were committed to trying to finish the 2019-20 season, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and coach Doc Rivers have been communicating with their staff and players through phone calls and a group text message.
The first seedlings of a timeline came on a day when the league also gave its 30 clubs a set of guidelines to follow until Monday, when the rules could be adjusted based on new information.
Players have been mandated to stay in the market where they play and have daily conversations with team medical staffs through the weekend. They’ve been asked to stay at home as much as possible, with practices, group workouts and team meetings outlawed.
Two players, Utah Jazz All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for the coronavirus. The Toronto Raptors, who played Utah on Monday, have self quarantined and undergone testing for the virus. The Detroit Pistons, who played the Jazz in Detroit on Saturday, have also been asked to isolate themselves.
“While there is no indication that the novel coronavirus was passed to any Pistons player or staff member, out of an abundance of caution medical staff has asked players, coaches, basketball staff and traveling party to self isolate until further notice under the direction of team medical staff,” the team said in a statement.
Mitchell, 23, confirmed he tested positive in an Instagram post Thursday.
“We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realize that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well-being of those around them,” Mitchell wrote. “I appreciate the authorities in Oklahoma who were helpful with the testing process and everyone from the @utahjazz who have been so supportive. I am going to keep following the advice of our medical staff and hope that we can all come together and be there for each other and our neighbors who need our help.”
Gobert’s diagnosis, which happened Wednesday and triggered the shutdown of the NBA and eventually most of the rest of the sporting landscape, was met with controversy because of his actions earlier in the week. Gobert, 27, ended a news conference Monday by jokingly touching the microphones and recording devices of the assembled media.
He apologized Thursday.
“I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of concern and support over the last 24 hours. I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis…mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment,” Gobert wrote. “The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.
“I am under great care and will fully recover. Thank you again for all your support. I encourage everyone to take all of the steps to stay safe and healthy. Love.”
The virus’ impact on the league is likely not done. TNT analyst Charles Barkley announced that he was instructed to self quarantine after exhibiting symptoms. He received a test for COVID-19 and participated in Thursday’s show via phone.
The NBA hopes to use cases like Gobert’s and Barkley’s to educate fans about the dangers of the virus and the precautionary steps people are encouraged to take. For at least the next month, there’s not much else for the league to do.
“At this point, we’re just waiting,” Silver said.
Staff writers Broderick Turner and Andrew Greif contributed to this report.