NBA Players May Be Quarantined to Play Exhibition Games Before Season Resumes

Some NBA players could face quarantine or self-isolation to allow them to play in exhibition games before the season can resume, league commissioner Adam Silver said.

The NBA season was suspended for at least 30 days last Wednesday after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for coronavirus. New guidelines published on Sunday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended events attracting more than 50 people should be canceled or postponed for at least eight weeks as the U.S. battles to contain the outbreak.

"I don't have a good enough sense of how long a period this is going to be," Silver said while speaking on ESPN's SportsCenter on Wednesday night.

He added he was well aware of the "impact of the national psyche" of having no sports on TV and suggested the NBA was exploring the opportunity of getting some players to compete.

"One of the things we've been talking about are, are there conditions in which a group of players could compete — maybe it's for a giant fundraiser or just the collective good of the people — where you take a subset of players and, is there a protocol where they can be tested and quarantined and isolated in some way, and they could compete against one another?" he said.

"Because people are stuck at home, and I think they need a diversion. They need to be entertained."

The commissioner added there were a number of other options the league was discussing in a bid to soften the blow of the shutdown on fans, players and on the 30 franchises. The top two items on the agenda were the timing of the resumption and the possibility of holding games behind closed doors, as a number of European soccer leagues did shortly before they ground to a halt in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"As I look at the options, maybe we can do this incrementally, and the first step isn't games with thousands of people in the arenas, but maybe it is just games," Silver said. "Something I've always said is 99% of people consume our game through some sort of media platform. It's only a tiny percentage of fans who get to see our games in arenas."

Sporting events are just one aspect of every day life to have been significantly altered by the coronavirus outbreak. On a broader scale, the global economy has ground to a halt and is heading towards a recession that could dwarf the 2008 global financial crisis in terms of severity.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed a stimulus package worth $1 trillion as the U.S. economy slides towards the kind of crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Silver acknowledged coronavirus would deliver a devastating blow to the U.S. economy, but hoped the NBA could serve as a positive conduit for recovery.

"I'm sure as people are sitting home but still working they are thinking of these various things like how can we restart the economy and what role can the NBA play?" he said.

Since Gobert tested positive last week, another six NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus, including the Frenchman Utah Jazz's teammate Donovan Mitchell and Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood.

Four Brooklyn Nets players, including Kevin Durant, also tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. On Wednesday, the team came under criticism from New York City mayor Bill De Blasio for testing all its players.

De Blasio, however, suggested that showed a lack of respect for ordinary people who were waiting to be tested.

"We wish them [Nets] a speedy recovery," the New York City mayor tweeted.

"But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested.

"Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick."

Silver defended the Nets and other NBA teams for testing their players.

"People were not taking these protocols all that seriously until the NBA did what it did," he said.

As of Thursday morning, almost 9,500 cases have been reported in the U.S., with 150 deaths and 106 people recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

Over 9,000 people have died since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There are over 220,000 cases globally, with more than 84,000 recovered.

NBA, Adam Silver
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center on February 15 in Chicago, Illinois. Stacy Revere/Getty