NBA commissioner Adam Silver showed up virtually to speak at the traditional press conference prior to the start of the 75th regular season, the third subjected to the coronavirus pandemic, and said his desire had been to get there with a the players’ union so that there would be a mandate on Covid-19 vaccination.
He was also adamant that the problem with Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who has refused to be vaccinated and will not be able to play for the home team, is not with the NBA but with a municipal mandate, which does not allow public venues to be active without vaccination.
“This is between Irving and the city of New York right now,” he continued. “This is not a league issue … but I think it would have been better if all players had been vaccinated, the reality is this is about doing a public service, especially in the face of young people not seeing the value of getting vaccinated.”
Silver recalled that it is about living under a reality that conditions everything that was previously normality and therefore there are very new things.
“There is nothing fair about this virus,” Silver noted. “It’s indiscriminate in terms of who it impacts. And I think it’s perfectly appropriate that New York and other cities have passed laws requiring people who work and visit stadiums to get vaccinated. That seems like a responsible public health decision.”
About 96% of NBA players have been vaccinated, Silver confirmed. That means about 20, or less than one per team on average, are not. Anyone working around players this season, from referees to stats staffers, is required by league mandate to be vaccinated.
“I hope Kyrie, despite how strongly he feels about the backlash overusing the vaccine, finally decides to do it because I would love to see him play basketball this season,” Silver argued.
The NBA commissioner also discussed the league’s 10 billion revenue projection for 2021-22 is based on having full stadiums for the entire season.
The league missed revenue projections by about 35% last season because arenas were not filled for much of the year.
There are still no resolutions to the league’s investigations into the sign-and-trade deals that sent Lonzo Ball to Chicago and Kyle Lowry to Miami this summer.
The investigations are trying to determine whether the Bulls or Heat violated league rules by making contact with the players before the NBA’s trade window opened.
Silver insisted that the league is trying to seek equality within the league, but also admitted that there are several teams that are above average and that was something that could not be avoided.
Adding a season-long tournament, something Silver has sought for some time and which partly follows what exists in European soccer, remains a viable possibility in the future. “I think we are still in the process of formulating what would be the best proposal for all concerned.”
Expansion will be a serious issue again, “at some point,” Silver reiterated. Seattle is a city the league is looking at, but the league won’t look to grow beyond the current 30 teams until it has “completely gone through the pandemic and knows we’re back to operating at full speed.”
Silver also said it is “unclear” whether the NBA will return to closed-circuit state television in China this season. The NBA has not had a game broadcast since a tweet by Daryl Morey, current president of operations for the Philadelphia Sixers, in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong two years ago when he was with the Houston Rockets.
The commissioner ended his meeting with reporters charged with optimism that the NBA All-Star Game scheduled for February in Cleveland will be able to be held in a near-normal fashion this season.
The celebration of what will be the 75th season in NBA history will be centered on the announcement of the anniversary team.