The National Basketball Association has announced that it will suspend all games after Wednesday night until further notice, following a player on the Utah Jazz testing positive for COVID-19. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the association said in a statement.
The Jazz were in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder Wednesday evening, but the game was called off right before it was due to start, with players already introduced and the arena packed with fans. Utah’s star center Rudy Gobert was the player who tested positive for coronavirus. The NBA says the player was not in the arena tonight.
A surreal scene played out on TV and League Pass as match officials discussed the situation with coaches and stadium staff, with the commentators confused as to what was happening. Ultimately, the game was postponed over the PA system due to “unforeseen circumstances,” with the announcer assuring fans that “you are all safe.”
Tonight’s scheduled game featuring the New Orleans Pelicans at the Sacramento Kings was also postponed at the last minute, with Pelicans players apparently refusing to leave the locker room. The reason given on the televised broadcast was that a referee assigned to the game, Courtney Kirkland, also worked Monday night’s game in Utah between the Jazz and the Toronto Raptors.
Gobert had made light of the coronavirus outbreak earlier in the week, making a point to touch all of the microphones and recording equipment in the media room during a press conference.
The NBA had already been considering its response to the COVID-19 situation, with reports suggesting that games could be played in empty arenas. LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers drew criticism for saying that he’d refuse to play under such conditions, though he later walked back its comments.