NBA Suspends Season As Utah's Gobert Tests Positive For Coronavirus In OKC


PHOTO/Randy Renner

CHESAPEAKE ARENA -- In a stunning development the NBA has suspended the season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Just before that announcement the league suspended the Thunder-Jazz game before it began and fans were told the leave the arena. Workers then began disinfecting seats closest to the Utah team bench.

Moments before tipoff but after the starting lineups had been announced and Rumble had banged his drum, Thunder team physician Dr. Donnie Strack came sprinting out onto the court with, what we know now, was the stunning news that Gobert had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gobert had been scratched from the Jazz lineup because of "illness" and Emmanual Mudiay was also sick. Reports indicate Gobert tested negative for influenza and strep throat earlier. A coronavirus test was administered as a precaution. Gobert was not in Chesapeake Arena at the time according to a statement from the NBA.

Game officials met with both coaches and directed teams to return to their locker rooms.

Thunder guard Chris Paul was seen asking officials "what happened? What happened to Rudy?" As he tried to approach the Jazz bench players urged him to stay away apparently out of concern that they too may have been infected.

Both teams, their coaches and staff then went back to their locker rooms where they were basically quarantined until the NBA and health officials could decide what to do about a situation that was developing and deteriorating quickly.

The Thunder and Jazz had been preparing for a huge game, the winner would be in fourth place in the Western Conference but as word spread that NCAA conference tournaments were being cancelled or would be played without fans the league held conference calls with team owners and were expected to announce on Thursday that the NBA would play its games without fans in arenas.

Then came word of Gobert's positive test and all the implications. The Jazz have played five games in the last 10 days. Gobert came into contact with at least 80 players, coaches and game officials. Then all those people came into contact with other players and coaches. The NBA quickly realized there was no other decision to make except to suspend the season.

Thunder players and staff were able to leave the arena a couple of hours after the game was suspended. Players and staff were not given a test for the coronavirus. None of them had come into contact with Gobert. Jazz players remained inside The Peake for several hours. A team from the CDC and the Oklahoma Department of Health administered coronavirus tests to all players and the rest of the Jazz traveling party. Gobert was said to be feeling fine and was hospitalized so his condition could be monitored. The team spent the night in Oklahoma City and was working on arrangements to return to Salt Lake City. Their regular team charter had been cancelled.

Oklahoma City mayor David Holt was meeting with city and state health officials and emergency managers late into the night.

It was not the kind of evening anyone was expecting and everyone is left asking the same question, what next?