The day had begun with a precautionary step when the Golden State Warriors announced their home game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday would be played without spectators.
That action was taken after officials in San Francisco decided Wednesday to ban gatherings of more than 1,000 people for two weeks.
At about the same time, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was telling Congress he’d recommend the NBA not allow fans at games in response to the coronavirus.
“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said. “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”
But by the end of Wednesday, after Utah’s Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with coronavirus, the NBA opted to take a far more drastic step by suspending operations indefinitely.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” said the NBA in a statement released Wednesday night.
If there is to be a next step, it will be discussed Thursday when the league’s board of governors holds a conference call. A source told the Associated Press the shutdown is expected to last at least two weeks. But no one really knows.
“It’s a very serious time right now,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told The Associated Press. “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 said in a statement its player “tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. The individual’s symptoms diminished over the course of [Wednesday] , 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.”
News of the season’s suspension quickly swept around the league. The Utah-Oklahoma City game was initially delayed 30 minutes before finally being canceled once the reality Gobert’s condition became clear. The New Orleans Pelicans game at Sacramento was canceled because one of the officials assigned to the game had worked Monday’s Jazz game.
“I mean, it’s not within the realm of possibility. It seemed more like out of a movie than reality,” Dallas owner Mark Cuban said on ESPN. “I trust Adam [Silver, the NBA’s commissioner]. You know what? It’s really not about basketball or money. Literally, if this thing is exploding to the point where all of a sudden players and others have had it, you think about your family. You want to make sure you’re doing this the right way.
“Now it’s much more personal, and you’ve seen what’s happened in other countries, but just the whole idea that it’s come this close and potentially a couple players have it, just, ‘stunning’ isn’t the right word. Just crazy.”
As an extra layer of protection, NBA players have been told not to have visitors from out of town. Of course, what’s been left unsaid is how many players may now have the virus because of contact with Gobert over the last few weeks. Utah has recently played Cleveland, New York, Boston, Detroit and Toronto. Those players are being asked to self-quarantine.
“I’m sure I probably had contact with [Gobert]. But at the same time, like I said, [I’m] just taking precautions,” Detroit’s Langston Galloway told ESPN. “We’ve been washing our hands, and when the reports started coming out, everybody’s kinda been on their hand sanitizer, washing their hands, just staying focused on that moment of, hey, [we have] interaction with a lot of different people and knowing that at the end of the day, you might’ve touched the ball, you might’ve interacted with a fan, and just being [cautious] with that going forward.”
ESPN reported Gobert was not at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, but was prepared to play if he had been cleared medically. Complicating matters of the Jazz, the team apparently needed to consult with health officials in Salt Lake City and Oklahoma being allowed to return home.
There are 259 games left to play in the regular season. As it is, the NBA Finals already run into June. Perhaps now, the season could span past the Fourth of July – if it’s even resumed.
“As we’ve said from the beginning, the health and safety of our fans, employees, players and partners is our top priority and thus we fully support the NBA’s decision to postpone games,” Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “We will continue to stay in contact with the league, and local, state and federal health experts as we closely monitor this public health crisis.”