NBA chief defends league over virus tests for 'wealthy'

Kevin Durant.(Getty Images)
Kevin Durant.(Getty Images)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended the league's swift testing of players for the new coronavirus on Wednesday as the vast majority of Americans face long waits to be tested for the disease.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed NBA teams for being able to access Covid-19 tests after it emerged four members of the Brooklyn Nets, including superstar Kevin Durant had tested positive.

Several NBA teams including the Nets, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers have been tested for the illness in private facilities despite shortages of testing kits.

"We wish them a speedy recovery," de Blasio said of the Nets players in a post on Twitter.

"But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for Covid-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested.

"Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick."

In an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, Silver said a total of eight NBA teams had undergone tests.

But while Silver acknowledged de Blasio's criticism, he defended the decision to test players, saying the NBA was acting on advice of public health authorities.

"I of course understand his point in that it is unfortunate we are in this position that it's triage when it comes to testing, so the fundamental issue obviously is that there are insufficient tests," Silver said.

"I'd only say in the case of the NBA is that we've been following the recommendations of public health officials."

US authorities have come under fire for lagging behind in deploying test kits, which health experts have said allowed the virus to spread beyond the country's ability to detect it.

Players 'stir crazy'

The NBA imposed an indefinite suspension on games after Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

Teammate Donovan Mitchell was also confirmed to have contracted the disease.

Silver said the league had acted swiftly after the initial clusters of positive cases was confirmed.

"We followed health officials and doctors recommendations that we looked at that group of teams that were most proximate to the initial teams that had tested positive, and the circle expanded from there," Silver said.

"We've had eight full NBA teams that have been tested now and members of other teams that were showing symptoms.

"I understand from a public health standpoint why some people have reacted the way they did, but I would say from an NBA standpoint we were following directives."

Silver said he believed of the players who have so far tested positive, none were in danger.

"Two the best of my knowledge two had mild symptoms while the others remained asyptomatic," he said.

Silver meanwhile would not be drawn on when he expected the 2019-2020 season to resume.

"I honestly don't have a sense of how long a period this is going to be," he said when asked about the league's hiatus.

"I'm optimistic by nature and I want to believe we're going to be able to salvage at least a portion of this season.

"The players are going stir crazy, they want to play, they want to compete. We're going to try by any means we can to play basketball again.

"But the safety and health of our players comes first. That will be the condition upon which we can play -- when public health officials say we can play."

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