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NBA commissioner Adam Silver says Orlando league will shut down if there’s ‘a significant spread’

July 7, 2020, 8:53 PM UTC

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver did not rule out the possibility of the resumed NBA season shutting down once again if the novel coronavirus pandemic infiltrates the league’s temporary campus in Orlando.

Official NBA games are set to resume on July 30—with scrimmages beginning on July 22—as part of a 22-team tournament taking place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. Strict health and safety protocols, including regular COVID-19 tests for players and personnel, will be in place. The hope is that the virus won’t spread after an initial quarantine period, but Silver—speaking during Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Health conference on Tuesday—said that even if someone at the site did test positive, it would likely not result in the cancellation of the tournament.

But when asked about what exactly the threshold for having to shut down would be, Silver acknowledged, “It’s the right question, and I’m not sure yet.” He went on to say: “Certainly, if we had any sort of a significant spread at all within our campus, we would be shut down again.”

“It would be concerning if once [the players] sit through our quarantine period, and then were to test positive, we would know that, in essence, there’s a hole in our bubble,” Silver added. “That our campus is not working in some way.”

Silver expressed confidence in the NBA’s medical procedures and team of advisers, led by renowned virologist and researcher David Ho. “We do have the ability to trace, to try and understand where that positive case came from,” he said. “We can analyze the virus itself and try to track whether, if there’s more than one case, if it’s in essence the same virus, the same genetic variation of the virus that has passed from one player to another.”

Optimism about the NBA’s quarantined campus is high enough that Silver himself plans to attend. “There will be an opportunity for some people to move on to the campus having first been tested but remaining very far from the protected people,” such as players and referees, “who are participating in the games,” he said.

“I’ll still be tested in order to come on to the larger campus,” Silver said. “But I will stay far away from players.”

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