The NBA’s outlook on the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) changed in a matter of hours Wednesday.
Reports indicated the league preferred playing the remainder of the NBA season in empty arenas, and a member of the board of governors told NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh that was a “nuclear option.” But the NBA suspended its season soon after, when a Utah Jazz player — reportedly center Rudy Gobert — tested positive for COVID-19.
The league initially planned to play the remainder of its Wednesday slate, but a league source told NBC Sports California’s James Ham that the New Orleans Pelicans decided against taking the court against the Kings at Golden 1 Center once they learned referee Courtney Kirkland had officiated the Jazz’s game against the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
The NBA skipped what the governor described as the “nuclear option,” suspending Kings-Pelicans entirely “out of an abundance of caution,” hours after suspending the Jazz’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“This is a cross-pollination league,” Haberstroh told NBC Sports California’s Jim Kozimor and Jerry Reynolds following the game’s postponement. “It truly is. When you look at the schedule of the Utah Jazz, they played [at Oklahoma City] tonight. They played the other day on Monday at home against the Toronto Raptors, and two days before that they played at Detroit and two days before that they played at Boston.
“Think about all those players, in all of those games who are now sitting at home wondering if they have the coronavirus because Rudy Gobert, who has been reported as the player infected with the Utah Jazz … has infected them by playing in those games on the court.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday night that teams who have played the Jazz within the last 10 days have been told to self-quarantine.
Haberstroh said “it’s too early to say” if the suspension of the NBA season is indefinite. There reportedly is pessimism the league will play games again this season, but Wednesday provided a clear indication of just how quickly things can change.
As far as next steps, Haberstroh said the NBA needs to determine when — and where — Gobert was infected, and whether or not he has been following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s precautions designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Gobert jokingly touched reporters’ microphones on a podium before Monday’s game after the Jazz closed their locker room to media.
Although Gobert reportedly is the NBA’s first case of COVID-19, Haberstroh said the story has moved far beyond the French big man. There are more than 1,200 confirmed cases in the United States and testing is still ramping up, so plenty of others will be far more vulnerable to the virus’ spread.
“It is also about their families, and the elderly and the children involved in this situation,” Haberstroh said. “So, until the NBA can learn more about this situation, I think it’s too early to speculate whether we will see NBA games at this point in the season, or whether it’s too much of a risk to play NBA games — even in an empty arena. At this point, it’s simply too early to say.”
Coronavirus: How NBA’s response, options changed in matter of hours originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area