COURTSIDE

OVER the last few days, there has been marked speculation on whether the National Basketball Association can still resume its 2019–20 campaign. Whereas the initial shock that accompanied the league’s decision to suspend the season was quickly replaced by optimism, information trickling through the grapevine has it adopting a more negative stance of late. In part, it’s because the situation remains murky; the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic continues to claim thousands of lives and put countless others at risk every day, and the resumption of hoops operations — even if it is the premier hoops operations in the world — is far from the priority of all and sundry.

That said, there can be no denying the importance of sports (and of the NBA, in particular, as the most progressive league by far) to progress in a post-COVID-19 environment. And, in this regard, leading lights such as commissioner Adam Silver hold the responsibility of projecting a future in which some semblance of normalcy is restored. It’s why scuttling the season remains an absolute last resort, and why other options, no matter how seemingly improbable, keep getting evaluated. Hope fuels the constant assessment, even if the impression being given is that of a canoe leaking water and compelled to move against the tide.

Parenthetically, Silver’s interview with TNT’s Ernie Johnson, broadcast on Tuesday via the league’s Twitter account, underscored his refusal to give in. He was right when he said the flow of information has been far from ideal. “Interestingly enough, I think if you and I on March 12 had been asked that same question, both of us would have said, ‘It’s hard to imagine that three-plus weeks later, we wouldn’t have a better understanding of where we are.’” On the other hand, he remained steadfast in his intent to find ways to keep the season alive — even to the point of holding back on making any definitive decision unless and until he gets a much better grasp of the situation.

Which was why Silver argued that nothing can be set in stone. “Essentially, what I’ve told my folks over the last week is we should just accept that, at least for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decisions.” He acknowledged that officials continue to look “at many different scenarios for restarting the season, but I think it honestly is just too early, given what’s happened right now, to even be able to project or predict where we will be in a few weeks.” That said, he disclosed that the NBA has moved from projecting specific scenarios to “listening” in view of all the uncertainty.

There can be no denying that Silver wants the season to restart because of financial considerations. Nonetheless, he made clear the principal purpose for doing so: “Beyond the virtue of crowning a champion, what will the symbolism be of major league sports starting back up in this country?” Interestingly, he noted anew that 99% of the NBA’s fans don’t go to the games, thereby enabling the league to look past tradition in terms of meeting their expectations in this day and age of quarantines and social distancing. And as a repository of society’s brightest prospects, it cannot but exhaust all options to ensure the season keeps from folding for good.

 

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.