Basketball: NBA suspends season after player tests positive for coronavirus

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert dunks the ball during the first half against the Washington Wizards on Feb 28, 2020.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert dunks the ball during the first half against the Washington Wizards on Feb 28, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS, AFP) - The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that it will suspend the season after the Wednesday (March 11) night schedule until further notice as it deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came shortly after a game between the Utah Jazz and hosts Oklahoma City Thunder was called off moments before tip-off.

"The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight's schedule of games until further notice," the league said in a statement. "The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic."

According to the NBA, a Jazz player preliminarily tested positive for coronavirus. The NBA stated the affected player was not in the arena at the time.

The decision was made after the confusing scenes in Oklahoma City, where Jazz and Thunder players took the court to warm up, but shortly before the scheduled tip-off were sent to their locker rooms before police began to clear the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The NBA did not name the player who had tested positive, but several US media outlets reported it was French defensive standout Rudy Gobert, who was listed first as questionable for the game and then as out with illness.

Team-mate Emmanuel Mudiay was also listed as suffering from an undisclosed illness on the team's injury report.

Six NBA games were scheduled for Wednesday and four were underway when the game in Oklahoma City was called off.

At the time of the announcement, the Dallas Mavericks' home game against the Denver Nuggets was midway through the third quarter.

ESPN cameras caught Mavericks owner Mark Cuban finding out the news as he looked at a phone while sitting courtside, then walking to the Dallas bench before another man - presumably on the team's staff - took the phone and talked to on-court officials.

"This is crazy. This can't be true. This isn't within the realm of possibility," Cuban told ESPN. "I'm not an expert. I'm not going to try to be an expert. Our plan here was to defer to the NBA.

 
 
 

"I trust Adam (Silver, the NBA commissioner). It's really not about basketball or money. If this is just exploding to the point that players and others have it ... you think about your family. Stunning isn't the right word. It's not about the team. It's about the country and life in general."

Two other games - the New York Knicks at the Atlanta Hawks and the Charlotte Hornets at the Miami Heat - were late in the fourth quarter.

All three games were to be allowed to finish before the suspension goes into effect.

The New Orleans Pelicans were also scheduled to play at the Sacramento Kings for a 10.30pm Eastern Time (10.30am Singapore time) tip-off in the final game of the night's line-up, but that too was cancelled shortly after the NBA's announcement.

"It's unprecedented," Detroit coach Dwayne Casey - whose Pistons fell to the 76ers in Philadelphia - said of the decision to suspend the season. "I think it's the prudent thing to do."