SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Spurs Sports and Entertainment president R.C. Buford spoke to the media via a video conference to update the status of the organization, team and league as it moves ahead during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday’s video conference was the first time a Spurs executive has spoken publicly since the NBA suspended its 2019-20 regular season March 11.
Buford responded to reports that some NBA executives wanted to cancel the remainder of the season.
“Every indication and intention is to return to play and create best environment for league and fans,” Buford said. “We want to do what’s right for the league and fans.”
Buford said the league has had several discussions about resuming the season, but it will only be done in safe manner for staff, players and fans.
He said there have not been any final decisions made on how fans would be able to attend games in the future or seating, but the league is modeling multiple scenarios.
“We miss everybody. This is uncharted territory,” Buford said. “We want to interact with the community in a safe environment.”
The pandemic has also raised into question whether the NBA calendar would shift.
Buford said any decisions made for this season will not only impact the remainder of this season, but future league years.
He said it is an ongoing conversation with television networks, media partners and other professional sports leagues.
When asked about the current Spurs players and their health, Buford said the coaching staff and trainers have conducted virtual interviews, workouts and rehab sessions with team.
“Getting Pop on a virtual call was the biggest challenge we faced during this hiatus,” Buford joked.
Buford added that most of the Spurs players have stayed in the San Antonio area during the league’s hiatus.
He credited the staff for implementing a program within days of the league suspending play, but said the situation has been unprecedented.
Buford said if the league resumes play, getting the players back into shape poses a challenge.
“Even during a lockout players were able to get together and practice,” said Buford. “Many of guys have not gone two months without getting in gym.”
The NBA announced this week that players would not be allowed to return to practice facilities before May 8 even if states loosened stay at home orders, which Texas has done.
Buford said they have not made a decision on reopening the Spurs facility.
“We’re going to make that decision as we get more information and more data from our local environment,” Buford said. “(We’re) going to do what we can to create a safe space for the team to get back together.”
Buford said the bar for any discussion starts with whether it’s safe to return.
Aside from the league and players, Buford said all arena employees were paid “through the end of the season” and said SSE has not had to furlough any employees or make staff changes at this juncture.
Buford also praised the leadership of San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and other local organizations, such as the San Antonio Food Bank, which has worked to feed families during the crisis.
“The commitment to doing the best for the community has been unmatched,” Buford said. “This situation transcends sports and I don’t think there is anything we could have done to understand the impact of COVID.”
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