Though Christmas Day Slate May Be Disrupted, Adam Silver Says NBA Has 'No Plans' to Pause

Though the Christmas Day schedule may be disrupted, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the league has "no plans" to pause the season.

On Tuesday, the league told 10 NBA teams with games set for Christmas that the day would potentially downsize to only five games, depending on whether COVID-related issues force changes to the lineup and make holes in the national television schedule.

That same day, Silver had an interview with ESPN where he said the league looked at multiple options but found no reason to halt play.

"Frankly, we're having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now," Silver said. "As we look through these cases literally ripping through the country right now, putting aside the rest of the world, I think we're finding ourselves where we sort of knew we were going to get to for the past several months — and that is that this virus will not be eradicated and we're going to have to learn to live with it. That's what we're experiencing in the league right now."

As of Tuesday evening, a minimum of 84 players from 20 teams were thought to be in the league's COVID protocols, the number not including coaches and staff. However, these numbers change nearly hour-to-hour, and the current count is mostly based on what teams have revealed in their latest injury report.

NBA, Adam Silver, Continued Play, Potential Disruptions
In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league looked at multiple options but found no reason to halt play. In this photo, Silver speaks to the crowd during a ceremony before the game between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum on Oct. 19, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The league told the teams scheduled for Christmas the priority is filling the ABC windows for Saturday's games, which means the slots at 2:30, 5 and 8 p.m. Eastern. For now, those games, in order, would have Boston at Milwaukee, Golden State at Phoenix, and Brooklyn at the Los Angeles Lakers.

The other games on the Christmas schedule are Atlanta at New York at noon Eastern, and Dallas at Utah at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. Both of those games are scheduled to be shown on ESPN.

The league called the notion of shifting game times — which may happen if a game is postponed — a contingency plan in the memo distributed to the teams involved and obtained by the Associated Press. Decisions on whether shifting times is needed could come as late as Friday. Any decisions made on Saturday to postpone a Christmas game would not impact the remainder of the day's schedule, the league said.

"There's no doubt those five Christmas Day games are important," Silver said. "But as you know, we play many games every day."

The NBA has postponed seven games so far this season, but none from Wednesday onward yet. Some of the teams scheduled to play on Saturday have numerous players and coaches in the league's health and safety protocols right now; the Nets currently have 10 players on that list, which is the highest known figure for any team.

The league is allowing teams to sign replacements to hardship contracts when a player tests positive for the virus, with hopes such moves can minimize the need for postponements.

Other top NBA players were being added to the protocols list Tuesday. Toronto's Fred VanVleet is now one of seven players in protocols for the Raptors, but the team — anticipating some roster reinforcements — flew to Chicago on Tuesday in anticipation of a Wednesday game there against the Bulls.

Also Tuesday, Atlanta teammates Danilo Gallinari and Clint Capela joined a Hawks list that already included Trae Young, raising questions about their availability for Christmas.

Silver told ESPN that a very small number of the league's current cases involve players or coaches who have gone through the three-shot process — two Pfizer or Moderna shots, then a booster — and that those people have largely been asymptomatic or experiencing no worse than mild symptoms.

"Boosters are highly effective," Silver said, adding that the league and the National Basketball Players Association are trying to get the league's 60% rate of boosted players increased significantly. The NBA has said 97% of players are fully vaccinated.

Silver also said that the Omicron variant is a "beyond dominant" player in the rise of positive tests within the NBA in recent days, estimating that somewhere around "90% of the positive cases we're seeing right now are Omicron."

The league is also "actively looking" at changing some protocols and is in constant contact with other leagues, Silver said, about whether there are ways to allow asymptomatic players to take the floor or at least escape the protocols more quickly than the current rules allow. It does not appear a change in policy there is imminent.

"We're comfortable with the protocols we're following right now," Silver said.

There were some notable removals from the protocols list Tuesday. The Lakers said Dwight Howard and Talen Horton-Tucker would be available to play Tuesday night against Phoenix. But Lakers coach Frank Vogel and four players remain out, all because of protocols.

"This virus, unfortunately, isn't going anywhere," Silver said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NBA, COVID, Potential Disruptions, Christmas
As of Tuesday evening, a minimum of 84 players from 20 teams were thought to be in the league’s COVID protocols, the number not including coaches and staff. In this photo, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) goes past Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Dec. 17, 2021, in Atlanta. John Bazemore/AP Photo