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The NBA announced on Wednesday that it is suspending its season until further notice after a player tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The NBA announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19,” an NBA statement reads. The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, the affected player was not in the arena.
“The NBA is suspending gameplay following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the player who tested positive was Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Charania tweeted that Gobert was “feeling good, strong and stable” and felt ready to play before Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
ESPN’s Royce Young reported that Gobert was not in the arena prior to the scheduled tipoff.
Jazz-Thunder game called off right before tip
The announcement arrived shortly after the Jazz-Thunder game was abruptly postponed.
Fans had filled the Chesapeake Energy Arena stands, and players took the court shortly before tipoff prior to leaving the floor to return to their locker rooms.
Thunder and Jazz players were sent back to the locker room 😬
No official word on whether the game has been postponed just yet.pic.twitter.com/00sCmLI2uN
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) March 12, 2020
After a delay, the public address announcer told fans that the game was postponed and asked them to leave the arena in an orderly manner.
Young reports that players at Wednesday’s game were all in quarantine in the arena and being tested for the coronavirus.
Prior to tip-off as the game was delayed, Chris Paul ran over to the Utah bench and said “what’s wrong with Rudy?” and they all yelled for him to get away. Now all the players are quarantined in their locker rooms, being tested for the virus.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 12, 2020
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowkski reported that the Jazz wanted to keep their players separated from Thunder players prior to the game’s scheduled tip.
Jazz and Thunder officials worked together on Wednesday as they awaited results of Rudy Gobert's coronavirus test, sources tell ESPN. Jazz wanted to make sure no OKC player had physical contact or became exposed to any Utah player before the result of Gobert's test was known.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
Young later reported that Thunder players had left the arena while Wojnarowkski reported that Jazz players remain quarantined in Oklahoma City and will need to coordinate with Oklahoma and Salt Lake City public health organizations before returning to Utah.
They remained in the arena as they awaited the results of testing, according to Young.
Reporting with @wojespn: Nurses have finished testing Jazz players who were at the arena and will process it overnight. For now, players are staying at the arena and aren't permitted to fly home. They're exploring chartering buses to get team back to Utah.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 12, 2020
The Jazz announced after the news broke that a player, presumably Gobert, “tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection” on Wednesday morning.
He was then tested for COVID-19 as a “precautionary measure” when his symptoms diminished. The positive test result arrived shortly before tip-off, according to the statement.
Gobert had joked about coronavirus
Gobert made light of the coronavirus scare during a Monday news conference when reporters asked players about the response to the spread of COVID-19. He closed his session with reporters by reaching to touch the microphones and voice recorders on the podium.
This video will be shown, literally, for decades to come pic.twitter.com/BIPFAXQKRM
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) March 12, 2020
He showed up on Wednesday’s injury report as questionable with an illness prior to his reported positive test for COVID-19.
NBA had planned to make Thursday decision
NBA owners met in a conference call on Wednesday and came to a consensus to either postpone the season or plan to move forward without fans, according to ESPN. The league was leaning toward moving forward with play in empty arenas, according to the report.
The intention was to reach a decision on Thursday, but the developments around Gobert forced the NBA to make a swift decision Wednesday night.
The G League later announced that it also is suspending its season.
Three games on Wednesday were already in progress or completed when the NBA announced the decision. The Dallas Mavericks completed their victory over Denver Nuggets on ESPN after the news had been announced.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings were planning to tip after the announcement, but the game was postponed after players reportedly expressed concerned about being on the court with an official who had worked a Jazz game on Monday.
Report: Teams who played Jazz recently told to self-quarantine
The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett reports that teams that have played the Jazz in the last 10 days have been told to self-quarantine.
Those teams include the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Charania reports the Raptors, who played the Jazz and Gobert on Monday, told players to self-quarantine for the next 14 days and were given precautionary tests for the virus.
Another major sports response to COVID-19
The extraordinary step is the latest in the United States to limit large gatherings in an effort to stifle the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The news arrives hours after the NCAA announced that its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played without fans in the stands. College basketball conferences are falling in line with their championship tournaments.
Meanwhile, sports organizations and municipalities in the U.S. and around the world have either canceled, postponed or limited fan access to sporting events and social gatherings like concerts and conferences.
COVID-19’s larger impact
The news arrives the same day the World Health Organization declared the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic.
“A pandemic just means that there are many cases of infectious diseases in multiple parts of the world and that it constitutes something that’s above the baseline rate that you’d expect,” infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It doesn’t say anything about severity.”
According to the WHO, most people who catch the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus recover. People who experience mild illness recover in around two weeks, while those stricken with a more severe illness take three to six weeks, according to the WHO.
As of Wednesday, the number of infected people in the United States surpassed 1,000.
Worldwide, more than 121,000 people have been infected, resulting in more than 4,300 deaths, according to the Associated Press.
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