The NBA has announced that is suspending its season “until futher notice” following a player on the Utah Jazz preliminarily testing positive for coronavirus, or COVID-19.
The player is reportedly Rudy Gobert. In a statement, the league said that the test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of Jazz-Thunder Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, and at that time, the game was canceled. The statement added that the “affected player was not in the arena.” (Gobert was listed as out with an illness, but his status was upgraded to questionable, according to Utah’s Twitter account).
The announcement of the season’s suspension was made during the fourth quarter of the Hawks’ game vs. the Knicks at State Farm Arena, which went to overtime. After that game, the Hawks had 15 games remaining in the season.
The Knicks most recently played the Jazz March 4. The Hawks were scheduled to play the Jazz in Salt Lake City March 28.
“I think everybody expected it,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said after the Hawks lost in overtime. “When was really the biggest question. Obviously, health is the main concern for everyone and we are not exempt from that. Tonight, understanding that someone in the league has caught the virus, I think we were trying to prevent that moment and it happened anyways. It’s the right move. I think fear, when you start worrying about what’s happening and what could happen, that’s the wrong thing to do, trying to play games and try to bring people into the stadium. So, it was expected. It was a swift decision. The guys all understand it. (Owner) Tony (Ressler) and (general manager Travis (Schlenk) spoke to the team. Our team doc was in there. Keeping them up to date and understanding that we are going to stay in communication. Everyone needs to stay home and be smart and stay out of the (practice) facility tomorrow.”
Per the NBA’s statement, the league “will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.” The league was already considering playing games without fans in attendance, a step the NCAA announced it would take for the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“This is definitely an extremely serious virus that’s upon us,” the Hawks’ John Collins said before Wednesday’s game when there were discussions about playing in empty arenas. “Obviously, nobody likes to hear the news that the NCAA cancelled the fans’ appearances at the games. Hopefully we’re not (projecting) that way. It seems like it is. Definitely something you don’t like to see, but as professionals, it’s our jobs to just try to come to work and be the best we can and try to do our job.”
According to ESPN, Jazz and Thunder players are quarantined in OKC’s arena, as of about 9:30 p.m. ET.
The Jazz issued the following statement regarding the situation: “We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials and the NBA to determine how to best move forward as we gather more information. The individual is currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City. In coordination with the NBA and state officials, we will provide updates at the appropriate time.”
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