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USATSI

NBA All-Star weekend has arrived, though this year all of the main events have been condensed into a one-night affair on Sunday in Atlanta. However, there was one item that still took place on Saturday: commissioner Adam Silver’s annual All-Star press conference. 

Silver touched on a number of topics regarding both the present and future of the league. Here’s a rundown of some of his most important comments:

Playoff bubble unlikely 

A bubble was never going to be an option for an entire regular season, as the players simply wouldn’t have agreed to leave their families for that long. However, with COVID-19 still having a major impact on the league and the country as a whole, there were some questions about whether the league would go back to a bubble for the playoffs to ensure player safety and competitive fairness.

Silver acknowledged that the virus is “in charge,” but said the league currently has no plans to recreate the bubble for the playoffs. 

“We’re not considering going back to a bubble right now,” Silver said. “I don’t rule anything out…The virus is firmly in charge, so we need to adjust to circumstances as they present themselves.”

Logo not changing

Another big topic around the league lately, at least on social media, has been a renewed push to change the NBA logo. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving suggested that Kobe Bryant should be the new logo, and he has plenty of support from both players and fans. 

Not so much from the league office, however. Silver pretty thoroughly shot down that idea. 

“There are no ongoing discussions” about changing the logo, Silver said. “The logo is iconic. … It doesn’t feel to me that this is the appropriate moment.”

Summer League plans in flux

Summer League was canceled last year due to the pandemic, and it’s not clear if it will happen this year either. It’s usually a July event, but the adjusted schedule means the playoffs will be going well into that month. So if it does happen at all, it will be later than usual.

Silver noted that he hopes they’ll be able to figure something out, but discussions are still underway. 

“Don’t have concrete plans yet for Summer League,” Silver said. “Would love to pick it back up. Maybe an abbreviated summer league, mini-camps…everything is on the table.”  

Vaccines won’t be mandatory for players

COVID-19 vaccines have been a touchy subject around the league. Legends like Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have filmed PSAs to encourage people to get the vaccine, as has San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Many players aren’t quite on board, however, and a number of stars reportedly even turned down the league’s request that they participate in a PSA. 

To this point, Silver said no players have received the vaccine, though that makes sense because most of them wouldn’t be eligible yet under current guidelines, and the league has made it clear they won’t cut the line. In addition, Silver said that the league won’t mandate players receive the vaccine. 

League trying to shut down All-Star weekend parties

When the league reversed course and announced that they would be holding an All-Star Game after all this year, it was met with confusion and concern from various parties. Players were frustrated — LeBron James called it a “slap in the face” — and Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms was worried about people traveling to her city and hosting events during a pandemic.

It turns out she was right to have those concerns. A league spokesperson said the league has sent out over 200 cease and desist letters to promoters and event hosts across the city, requiring them to stop using the NBA name and logo. While that might work to get the branding changed, it’s unlikely all the events will be shut down.

As for the players, they won’t have any opportunity to be out and about during the weekend. The league has created a mini bubble environment, and all players are required to check into the official hotel by Saturday night and remain there until the game on Sunday. 

Financial losses “considerable,” but league is in a good place

Save for the initial shutdown last year, the NBA has been able to continue operations — albeit with some significant adjustments that have cost the league a lot of money. Not only was building and operating the bubble environment an expensive undertaking, but most games over the past year have been played behind closed doors. And the arenas that have let in fans are doing so on a limited basis. 

When the league and players surprised everyone by starting this season before Christmas, one of the explanations was that waiting until after the new year would result in $500 million in losses. Those sort of reports shouldn’t always be taken at face value, because the league is trying to spin things their way, but it is clear that a delay would have cost everyone even more money than they’d already lost. 

On Saturday, Silver said that all told, the losses for the league have been “considerable.” At the same time, he believes the long-term health of the league is “very solid.”