Silver wants NBA to return to as close to normal as possible

Dave Uram
June 05, 2020 - 9:59 am
Sixers practice facility

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The NBA is making progress in resuming its 2019-20 season with the goal to award a champion this fall.

“We got a long way to go here,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on TNT’s “Inside The NBA.”  “We’re really in the equivalent of the first inning.”

Silver’s comments came on the same day the NBA’s Board of Governors approved a 22-team format that would have all the games played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, tentatively starting July 31 with the NBA Finals ending no later than October 12. Silver said, for the time being, there will be no fans. 

The National Basketball Players Association will be voting on the plan Friday, and according to the NBA’s press release, the restart is also contingent on an agreement with Disney to use their resort in Florida.

Related: NBA Board of Governors Officially Approves 22-Team, Orlando Restart

“I think just as other industries, other businesses, are looking to find their way, we’ve been exploring, together with the players, whether there — in essence — can be a new normal here,” Silver said.

The new normal features the 16 teams that are currently in the playoff picture, including the 76ers, and six bubble teams, who are right on the outside looking in. Presently, the 39-26 Sixers are the sixth seed in the East in a virtual tie with Indiana, who has a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over the 76ers.

The season would resume with each team playing eight games before the playoffs, then a traditional playoff format taking place. Charlotte Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan, whose team is not participating in the resumption because they’re too far down the standings, suggested the NBA don’t change its usual playoff structure, despite ideas being presented.

“He felt it was very important that after we establish the 16 teams, we not be gimmicky,” Silver, who agreed with Jordan, said. “There’s so much chaos in the world right now — I mean even before the racial unrest we’re experiencing now — that let’s come as close to normal as we can.”

If the eighth and ninth-seeded teams are within four games of each other at the conclusion of the eight games prior to the playoffs, there will be a play-in tournament for those teams. This doesn’t apply to the 76ers because they’re 14 1/2 games ahead of the ninth place Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference.

Silver also said during the “Inside The NBA” telecast that players, like Brooklyn superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — both of whom would have been on the injured list if the postseason had occurred when it was supposed to — are eligible to play, if they’re healthy.

Durant hadn’t played at all this season since suffering a severe injury during last season’s NBA Finals with the Warriors. Irving was deemed done for the season after being riddled with injuries throughout.

In the 76ers' case, Ben Simmons might’ve missed the start of the playoffs because of a back injury if the coronavirus hadn't delayed the season, but now the expectation is he’ll be healthy and ready to go when things pick up. 

Also, when the league shut down in March, Joel Embiid had just returned from a shoulder injury, so the postponement of the season essentially allowed him to heal further as well. That being said, Embiid has shown a trend to get out of shape after not playing for an extended period of time. It will be interesting to see his condition when, and of course if, play resumes. When Sixers General Manager Elton Brand spoke to the media in April, he said he wouldn’t bet against Embiid.

Competition aside, there’s the major element of safety — since a public health crisis is what shut the league down in the first place.

“We have issues to work out with Disney in terms of playing with Orlando, but even when all those steps are completed, I think there’s constant changes in terms of what we’re learning about this virus,” Silver told TNT. “We’re studying every day the case load in Orange County in Florida. Whether or not anti-virals or vaccines come sooner than anyone expected could impact whether fans come in, or not.”

Silver said everyone would be tested, likely every day. And if a player tests positive, Silver said they wouldn't have to shut down, as long as they're testing every day, they can contain the player, and they can do contact tracing.

On the TNT telecast, Silver even mentioned the possibility that some coaches, who are typically older and potentially more vulnerable, might have to stay away from the bench for safety purposes.

“It may be, for example, certain coaches may not be able to be the bench coach. They may have to retain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room or a ballroom with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play, we’re not gonna want them that close to players in order to protect them.”

According to ESPN, this sparked some reaction from coaches. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is the president of the NBA Coaches Association, released a statement Thursday saying he spoke with Silver, who admitted he might’ve spoken too soon on that topic.

The Associated Press reports that there are many details to still work through, such as testing and finances. The NBA and NBPA are working on medical protocols that will be finished and shared with the teams well before they arrive in Florida.

But, all in all, this is a good sign in the return of sports.

The NHL finalized plans for its playoff format, and announced Phase II of its return to play plan goes into effect on Monday with clubs allowed to open team facilities for voluntary, individual workouts.

The Philadelphia Union are allowed to have voluntary small group training as Major League Soccer hoping to restart soon.

And, the Eagles are reopening the Novacare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field to a limited number of employees starting Monday. Coaches are going to stay at home and continue the off-season program virtually.

Meanwhile, as other sports leagues are putting themselves into motion for game action sometime this summer, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association continue to disagree on a return-to-play format, most notably regarding pay. While time appears to be running out on a such a possibility, if the two sides were able to already come to an agreement, they could’ve had games lined up for early July.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.