NBA should avoid hitting pause on season unless COVID outbreaks affect fans, analyst says

About 100 NBA players have been in the league's health and safety protocols since the omicron variant gripped the nation

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Kenny Smith, the former Houston Rockets guard and current NBA analyst on TNT, said Thursday he didn’t think the league should shut its season down over the latest COVID-19 spread.

Smith told TMZ Sports that if the outbreaks are only affecting players then the league should churn on. But if fans are starting to get sick, then it would be time to hit pause.

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Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo came back from health and safety protocols for the team's Christmas Day game.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo came back from health and safety protocols for the team's Christmas Day game. (AP Photo/Jon Durr)

"I mean, the thought process should always be for the society, for the fans. It's not for the players. So meaning, we're just a part of society," Smith said. "So, if society needs to shut down because of proximity, because you're in arenas, yes. But just because of players, no."

"It's the lives that matter. So, if the games itself are causing people to get COVID, then you have to think about pausing."

There were about 100 players in the league’s health and safety protocols as the NBA marched toward its marquee Christmas Day slate of games. 

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Kenny Smith is a former Houston Rockets guard.

Kenny Smith is a former Houston Rockets guard. (Getty Images)

On Thursday, the NBA mandated each team organize a booster shot event for players, staff and family members by Dec. 31. The NBA told teams its data showed that boosters substantially reduce a person’s risk of being infected, and while 97% of the league is vaccinated, one out of every three players still isn’t boosted.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this week there were no plans to pause the season though numerous games had been postponed due to several COVID outbreaks plaguing teams.

"No plans right now to pause the season. We’ve of course looked at the options, but, frankly, we're having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now," Silver said on ESPN’s "NBA Today."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver waits to speak at the Los Angeles Lakers championship ring ceremony before the season-opening game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center Dec. 22, 2020 in Los Angeles. 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver waits to speak at the Los Angeles Lakers championship ring ceremony before the season-opening game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center Dec. 22, 2020 in Los Angeles.  (Harry How/Getty Images)

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"As we look through these cases, literally ripping through the country right now – putting aside the rest of the world — I think we’re finding ourselves where we knew we were going to get to for the past several months and that is that this virus will not be eradicated, and we’re going to have to learn to live with it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.