The recent COVID-19 surge caused by the hyper-infectious Omicron variant has altered the course of this NBA season. Seven games have been postponed so far, with more potentially in doubt, and over 100 players and coaches have entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
But despite rising concerns, the league has no plans to stop play. NBA commissioner Adam Silver went on ESPN’s “NBA Today” on Tuesday to discuss the current situation, and said there are “no plans to pause the season.”
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“We, of course, looked at all the options, but frankly we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now as we look through these cases literally ripping through the country right now — putting aside the rest of the world,” Silver said. “I think we’re finding ourselves where we knew we were gonna get to for the past several months. And that is, this virus will not be eradicated, and we’re going to have to learn to live with it. I think that’s what we’re experiencing in the league right now.”
Though there won’t be a formal halt to games, there may have to be further schedule changes as things develop. The league is making contingency plans for its big Christmas Day slate, which is supposed to feature five marquee games. Eight of the 10 teams currently have players in the health and safety protocols, however, and a number of stars such as Kevin Durant and Trae Young may not be available on Christmas. If changes do have to be made, the league is going to prioritize the 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET national TV slots.
In addition, Silver noted that the Omicron variant has become “beyond dominant” and is responsible for “around 90 percent” of the league’s current COVID-19 cases. As the situation develops, Silver said his current focus is on getting players who have been vaccinated to receive booster shots.
“We’re at roughly 97 percent of our players have been vaccinated,” Silver said. “From my standpoint, I’d rather focus on the 97 percent than the three percent, and incidentally many of the three percent now have gotten COVID, so they have developed antibodies. To me, the focus right now is on boosters for the 97 percent of players who have been vaccinated. Among those players who are eligible to get boosted, we’re at something like 65 percent. Ideally I’d like to see that number get to 97 percent as well. That’s what we’re focused on right now.”