Rudy Gobert, a center for the Utah Jazz, has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the NBA to suspend its season until further notice.
The news came as Gobert’s Jazz were preparing to tip-off against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The players were pulled off the court amid confusion. When Gobert's test results were announced, the game was canceled — and the league released a statement saying that after the conclusion of scheduled games Wednesday it would be suspending its season.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” the league said in a statement.
“This morning a player on the Utah Jazz tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. The individual’s symptoms diminished over the course of today, however, in a precautionary measure, and in consultation and cooperation with NBA medical staff and Oklahoma health officials, the decision was made to test for COVID-19,” the Jazz said in a statement released on Wednesday. “A preliminary positive result came back right before tip-off of the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City game.”
ESPN reports that mere seconds before the ball went up, Thunder director of medical services Donnie Strack came sprinting onto the court to speak with the game’s officials. Meanwhile, players were working through final stretches. The officials spoke with each of the teams’ head coaches, who then signaled to their teams to leave the floor.
Fans, meanwhile, were clapping along to a pregame hype song, following Thunder custom of standing until the team makes its first basket. Then, the music stopped.
As teams huddled in their locker rooms, the evening’s halftime entertainment act was brought out onto the floor. Moments later, the game was officially postponed. The public address announcer assured fans that they were safe, and informed them of the postponement. The arena was emptied without panic.
The Jazz were briefly quarantined in their locker room while all players were tested for COVID-19. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell's test came back positive.
According to ESPN, at least some players from recent Jazz opponents — including the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks — are being told to self-quarantine.
The suspension is expected to last at least two weeks.
“This is not a situation where you fake it ‘til you make it or try to sound or act important,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said after his team’s 113-97 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. “The NBA has hired people with expertise in those areas and they are working with people from the government and other people with expertise. We have to defer to them and that's exactly what we will do."
When it seemed likely that games would continue to be played without fans present on Tuesday, Cuban said he reached out to arena employees to find out what it would cost to support game-day staff who would be losing income. Cuban said he was developing a plan to support those staff members.
“I reached out ... to find out what it would cost to financially support people who aren’t going to be able to come to work.”— ESPN (@espn) March 12, 2020
–Mark Cuban on his plan for Mavericks employees during the NBA suspension pic.twitter.com/McOl1vHUqO