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NBA suspends season after Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after a player tested positive for covid-19. The NCAA announced it would cancel its March Madness tournament March 12. (Video: The Washington Post)
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The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, it announced Wednesday.

The announcement came hours after NBA owners held a conference call to discuss the league’s coronavirus response plans that failed to produce a resolution, and shortly after a game between the Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder was abruptly postponed right before tip-off.

"A player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement read. “The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of [Wednesday’s] game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, tonight’s game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.

On March 11, President Trump banned travel from Europe to the U.S. Within the hour, Tom Hanks said he had covid-19, and the NBA suspended its season. (Video: The Washington Post)

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

On Thursday, the Jazz announced that a second player had tested positive, after all members of the team’s traveling party had been tested.

NBA’s Rudy Gobert mocked coronavirus by touching reporters’ mics, phones. Then he tested positive.

Gobert was the Jazz player who tested positive for coronavirus, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation. The Athletic first reported Gobert’s positive test. Gobert, who was initially listed as “questionable” with an undetermined illness, was ruled out before Wednesday’s game and was not on the court during warmups.

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In a statement, the Jazz, who didn’t name Gobert, said that a player on their team “tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection” Wednesday morning and that his “symptoms diminished over the course” of Wednesday. However, a pregame test for coronavirus returned a “preliminary positive result” shortly before tip-off.

“Was just on the phone with Rudy,” Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier, who played on the French national team with Gobert, wrote on Twitter. “He is doing good. … Let’s not [panic] everyone. Love you all.”

Members of both the Thunder and Jazz went through warmups and starting lineup introductions at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City before the three game officials huddled shortly before tip-off. After a brief conversation, the officials sent both teams back to their locker rooms. During the delay, which lasted approximately 35 minutes, the Thunder proceeded with its halftime entertainment. Finally, the Thunder’s public address announcer informed fans that the game would be postponed.

“Fans, due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed,” the public address announcer said. “You’re all safe. Take your time in leaving the arena tonight and do so in an orderly fashion. Thank you for coming out tonight. We’re all safe. … Please drive home safely. Goodnight fans."

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Thousands of fans who remained in attendance slowly filed out, with some boos heard on the television broadcast. Both teams were held in their respective locker rooms for more than two hours after the postponement.

The chaotic scene unfolded shortly after NBA owners failed to reach agreement on an immediate plan for handling the coronavirus. While the league’s owners had weighed holding games without fans in attendance and postponing games, they initially decided to continue talks Thursday.

The NBA moved to take steps to ensure the health of players who recently came into contact with Gobert. The Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors all played the Jazz within the past 10 days, and they have been advised to self-quarantine, per ABC4 in Salt Lake City.

Later Wednesday, what would have been the final game before the suspension of the season began, a matchup between the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans, also was abruptly postponed. Courtney Kirkland, one of the referees scheduled to work the game at the Golden 1 Center, had officiated the Jazz’s Monday night game against the Raptors in Salt Lake City.

The Washington Wizards, who played against the Jazz on Feb. 28, on Thursday announced a three-to-four-day self-quarantine for players, coaches and basketball operations staffers.

Candace Buckner contributed to this report