R.C. Buford: Spurs in favor of returning to play this season
SAN ANTONIO – Fresh off a call with the top executives from the other 29 NBA teams, Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO R.C. Buford said Thursday the franchise is in favor of the league resuming its season.
“Our position all along is that we want to do what is right for the league and for the fans,” Buford said in a Zoom conference with local reporters. “Every intention is to return to play and to try to create the best environment we can for the league and for the fans, and we are all on board for that.”
The NBA suspended play on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
Billions of dollars in revenue are at stake for the NBA if it can’t resume play, but Buford indicated that there is more on the line than money.
“We all know, not only in our community and our region but around the country and around the world, people are missing sports, and we are missing playing,” Buford said. “That’s the problem we are trying to solve.”
Buford said the Spurs players are “dying to get in and dribble a ball,” but the league must be mindful of player health as it ponders a return to action.
“We can’t just blow a whistle and 10 days later think that we are going to put our players in an environment that it is safe to return from the time they have been away from playing,” he said.
Buford said the Spurs basketball and training staffs have been doing virtual meetings, workouts and even rehab sessions with the team’s players.
“Our coaching staff and our performance team were really creative and really proactive early on in this process,” he said. “We had no idea what we were going into and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered around that before there is a safe environment for our players to return to get back together, but there have been virtual workouts.”
Regarding the league targeting a May 8 opening of practice facilities, Buford was noncommittal as to whether the Spurs would open their doors.
“We are not putting any dates on it,” he said. “It’s going to be more how we get the information we need to be comfortable to provide the right atmosphere for our players.”
Buford said he is on a competition advisory group that is contemplating major questions regarding player safety, including non-COVID-19 issues like the threat of soft-tissue and structural injuries should there be a return to play.
“Where we sit right now, this is unchartered territory, and I would guess that there are guys who have never gone two months without being able to get into the gym," he said. "That’s the feedback we have gotten not only within our team but across the league. Can you imagine Manu (Ginobili) not playing for two months? Just to use him as an example.”
Buford said the Spurs have not had to make any layoffs, furloughs or pay reductions to staffers.
“We have not made any staffing changes at this time,” he said. “We will continue to review the realities of the situation as we go forward.”