LOS ANGELES: The NBA will suspend play starting on Thursday (Mar 12) after a Utah Jazz player preliminarily tested positive for the new coronavirus, the league said Wednesday.
The test result was reported shortly before Utah’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City was to begin, and that game was abruptly postponed.
The league said the affected player was not at the arena.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Team owners had been discussing Wednesday how best the league should respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
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The Golden State Warriors confirmed they would host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday in San Francisco behind closed doors after San Francisco city officials announced a two-week ban on all gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
NBA owners on Wednesday were discussing whether to delay the season or instead play in closed arenas league-wide.
The decision was made after the confusing scenes in Oklahoma City, where Jazz and Thunder players took the court to warm up, but shortly before the scheduled tip-off were sent to their locker rooms before police began to clear the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The NBA did not name the player who had tested positive, but several US media outlets reported it was French defensive standout Rudy Gobert, who was listed first as questionable for the game and then as out with illness.
Teammate Emmanuel Mudiay was also listed as suffering from an undisclosed illness on the team’s injury report.
Six NBA games were scheduled for Wednesday and four were underway when the game in Oklahoma City was called off.
“It’s unprecedented,” Detroit coach Dwayne Casey – whose Pistons fell to the 76ers in Philadelphia – said of the decision to suspend the season. “I think it’s the prudent thing to do.”