National Post (Latest Edition)

Commish proud of getting through ‘ longest season ever’

- Ryan Wolstat

Aweek shy of a full calendar year from his season- opening address in Tokyo, NBA commission­er Adam Silver kicked off the NBA Finals on Wednesday with a far different speech.

Back in October, Silver had been dealing with the fallout of the league’s kerfuffle with China stemming from a tweet by Houston

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

In the ensuing “longest season in NBA history,” the NBA had lost longtime commission­er David Stern and icon Kobe Bryant and the world had dealt with a global pandemic which has claimed over a million deaths and forced the league to shut down until restarting in Orlando under a bubble setup. Silver said Wednesday he initially didn’t believe the bubble scheme would work and praised the 6,500 on- site workers and people like NBA Players Associatio­n president Chris Paul, executive director Michele Roberts, along with Raptors all- star Kyle Lowry and Toronto native Dwight Powell for their massive contributi­ons to making it work. He also said he hoped they’d inspired people in the process.

“Being here has taken extraordin­ary sacrifices by everyone involved,” Silver said. “There are 6,500 people in this community in Orlando that have been servicing this campus.:

While pleased that this season would be completed ( barring a last- minute outbreak), Silver could not say what would come next. Yes, talks have already began about figuring out salary cap machinatio­ns, and Christmas was still the “tent pole,” the ideal start for the 2020- 21 campaign, the commission­er said early January was a likelier target. That’s because “further advancemen­ts are needed,” specifical­ly having rapid testing available, before the NBA can get fans back in arenas and get back to making its regular revenue, since nobody expects a widespread vaccinatio­n to be available by the start of the new year.

He also said it’s too early to know how Canada — namely the Raptors — would factor into next season, but did note the country has done a good job balancing economics and health where COVID- 19 is concerned, but did not allow any Major League Baseball games to be played north of the border.

The NBA intends to play a 2020-21 season under the most normal circumstan­ces possible. That said, Silver knows they have to keep every door open.

“I’m hoping we will not have to return to a bubble environmen­t, but it’s something we’ll have to consider,” he said.

NOT LACKING FOR CONFIDENCE

Heading into the Finals, Heat star Jimmy Butler didn’t shy away from expressing his confidence in his squad, even though the oddsmakers weren’t giving them much of a chance.

“A really good team. Not going to say that we’re any better than anybody else, but I just don’t think that we’re underdogs. I don’t,” Butler said on media day.

“So what that nobody picked us to be here? That’s OK. Pretty sure nobody is picking us to win, either. That’s OK. But we understand that. We embrace that, because, at the end of the day, we truly don’t care. We’re just going to go out here and compete, play together like we always have, and I’m going to see where we end up.”

Miami’s title odds were at 75- to-1 entering the season, which ESPN said was the lowest by any Finals team of the last 30 years ( only New Jersey nearly 20 years ago came close at 60-1 and no other finalists had worse than 30-1 odds, per ESPN).

 ?? Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images ?? Jimmy Butler is confident his Miami Heat will be competitiv­e against the
Los Angeles Lakers.
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Jimmy Butler is confident his Miami Heat will be competitiv­e against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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