NBA boss envisions ‘full houses’ in 2021-22


NBA 2021-2022 season back with full capacity arenas Image: NBA

The National Basketball Association (NBA) (US) is already halfway through the league’s second pandemic-challenged season, and the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is pretty optimistic and said on March 6th, 2021 that he can already see a 2021-22 campaign that “looks, feels and plays a lot more like normal”.

Silver is painting a positive picture as the United State has started vaccinating its population against the dreaded coronavirus which has struck a lethal blow to the country with more than half a million of its population getting wiped out.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a professional basketball league in North America. The league is composed of 30 teams and is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. It is the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world.

The NBA season 2020-21 campaign started on December 22nd, 2020 and the end date is tentatively scheduled for May 16th, 2021.

The NBA website quoted Silver as stating in a virtual presser, “Maybe for the first time in the past year, I’m fairly optimistic that as we see fans returning to our arenas, as we see public health officials across the country begin to open up sporting events, theaters, restaurants, other forms of entertainment, I feel pretty good that we’re going to continue apace.”

Silver was addressing media via a Web link, the way all NBA coverage has been transacted this season, with newsmen physically distanced by hundreds of miles from him and each other best manifested that the league was following COVID-19 protocols in toto. But as the present gives way to the future, the rate at which restrictions are easing up and immunity is being achieved suggests an NBA that will resemble a pre-March 2020 scenario.

The NBA website further quoted Silver as stating, “By the time we reach the playoffs in mid-May, things will even be considerably better than they are now. Also, obviously here in the United States, we’ve been making excellent progress in terms of vaccinations. That will be very helpful in getting people back in the arenas.”

Silver’s optimism can be gauged from the fact that he has smoothly pulled off the first half of the NBA 2020-21 seasons. Given all that might have gone wrong, the wellness of the personnel involved and the quality of competition has been remarkable. The grind and the isolation which the players have endured in what the NBA terms “work quarantine”, has resulted in pulling off more than half of the campaign smoothly amid the COVID-19 scourge.

Added Silver, “We ended up playing 95 percent of our games. We knew we were going to get positive cases for players and staff members operating out of the bubble. I felt our protocols held up as well as we could have hoped. I credit the schedule makers who had the foresight to divide the season in two parts. We were able to have the flexibility to push games into the second half of the season. Obviously, we won’t have that same flexibility in the second half. Something we’re watching for closely.”

The ongoing rollout of COVID vaccinations similarly will be tracked closely. The Commissioner said the NBA will encourage its personnel to trust the vaccines, but will not mandate 100 percent compliance.

The NBA boss observed, “I don’t think that every player certainly needs to be vaccinated for fans to come back. I mean, that’s not anything that the health authorities have suggested to us. No more do I think the fact that every fan won’t be vaccinated is an impediment of fans coming back to the arena. I think it’s with a combination of vaccines, antibodies, herd immunity in communities, proper safety and cleanliness protocols, we’ll be able to return to something that looks a lot closer to normal beginning next season.”

Silver did agree that if the players get the shots in their arms, it would open up what has been a pretty cloistered life so far for the players and staff – “They’ll be able to do more in their communities. My sense is most will ultimately decide that it’s in their interest to get vaccinated.”

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