The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive Wednesday for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas.
Now there will be no games at all, at least for the time being. A person with knowledge of the situation said the Jazz player who tested positive was center Rudy Gobert. The person spoke to The Associated Press (AP) on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team confirmed the test.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement sent shortly after 9:30 p.m. EDT. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The test result, the NBA said, was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off time for the Utah at Oklahoma City game on Wednesday night was called off. Players were on the floor for warmups and tip-off was moments away when they were told to return to their locker rooms. About 30 minutes later, fans were told the game was postponed “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
Those circumstances were the league’s worst-case scenario for now – a player testing positive. According to AP sources, the league expects the shutdown to last a minimum of two weeks but cautioned that the timeframe is very fluid.
“It’s a very serious time right now,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think the league moved appropriately and prudently and we’ll all just have to monitor the situation and see where it goes from here.”
The Jazz released a statement saying a player – they did not identify Gobert – tested negative earlier Wednesday for flu, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. That player’s symptoms diminished as the day went along, but the decision was made to test for COVID-19 anyway. That test came back with a preliminary positive result.
“The individual is currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City,” the Jazz said, adding that updates would come as appropriate.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which declared a pandemic on Wednesday, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
It has been a worldwide issue for several weeks. And now, it has hit the NBA.
“This is crazy,” Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson said on Twitter.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he was stunned when the news came down, adding that “this is much bigger than basketball.”
“This is a global pandemic where people’s lives are at stake,” Cuban said. “I’m a lot more worried about my kids, and my mom is 82 years old, and talking to her, and telling her to stay in the house, than I am about when we play our next game.”
Rapidly evolving times, as well. Around 7 p.m., a person with knowledge of the situation told AP that owners – who met by teleconference Wednesday – were largely in support of a plan to play games in empty arenas on a short-term basis.
About an hour later, the Thunder-Jazz game was halted before tip-off. And about 90 minutes after that, the season was called off, effective when the last whistle was to blow Wednesday night.
That came even earlier than planned: The last game of the night’s six-game slate, New Orleans at Sacramento, was called off as well because one of the referees assigned to work that Pelicans-Kings game, Courtney Kirkland, worked a Utah game on Monday.
“The game was canceled out of an abundance of caution,” the NBA said.
There are 259 games, roughly 21% of the schedule, left to play this season – and no one knows if, or when, things will resume.
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