The NBA just paused the season ... indefinitely.
In a statement, the league announced it is suspending games following the conclusion of Wednesday night’s scheduled slate of contests until further notice. The league will use the break to determine the next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.
All this came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. His test result was reported shortly before the tip of Wednesday night’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game was canceled, and Gobert was not in the arena.
The 76ers learned that the season would be suspended following their 124-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We have great leadership in the NBA,” Sixers general manager Elton Brand said. "Follow their lead. It’s important that the fans, players, coaching staff, our staff here at the Sixers remain healthy and we do everything we can.
“But we believe in the leadership of the league.”
“We are more [concerned about] the fans,” Pistons guard and former St. Joseph’s University star Langston Galloway said. “They are the ones who come and support us every single night and we were very worried about each other as players, our staff and everybody who is around the team. This is a world-wide things and this is affecting a lot of different people so we are keeping everybody in our thoughts and prayers to be safe and be careful.”
Said Brand, “We are not going to speculate on what we are going to do. We are going to regroup. We just heard about this five minutes ago. It’s utmost important that our fans, our players are staff, we feel safe and we are safe.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown said the team has faith in the league.
“The instruction was to come in and play the game,” Brown said of Wednesday’s victory over Detroit. “If you look at the proactive measures that our club has taken and the league has taken, I think they’ll be applauded. It’s a sensitive issue, obviously.”
Now there will be no games at all, at least for the time being. A person with knowledge of the situation said the Jazz player who tested positive was center Rudy Gobert. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team confirmed the presumptive positive test.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement sent shortly after 9:30 p.m. Eastern.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The test result, the NBA said, was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off time for the Utah at Oklahoma City game on Wednesday night was called off.
Players were on the floor for warmups and tip-off was moments away when they were told to return to their locker rooms. About 30 minutes later, fans were told the game was postponed “due to unforeseen circumstances.“
Those circumstances were the league’s worst-case scenario for now — a player testing positive. A second person who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity said the league expects the shutdown to last a minimum of two weeks, but cautioned that timeframe is very fluid.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, which declared a pandemic on Wednesday, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
It has been a worldwide issue for several weeks. And now, it has hit the NBA.
Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego, speaking before his team played at Miami on Wednesday — where news of the shutdown broke during the fourth quarter — said “these are scary times.”
The NBA’s movement toward empty arenas in the short term came on the same day that the NCAA announced that the men’s and women’s Division I tournaments would be played without fans — except for a few family members — permitted inside to watch.
“People are clearly taking the measures that they feel they need to take for safety,” said Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson, who played in both the Division I and Division III national championship games during his college days at Michigan and Williams.
“There’s people a lot higher up than ourselves in this locker room who have the information and the knowledge to make those types of decisions,” Robinson said. “In terms of if that were to happen here ... we love playing in front of our fans and we feel like that gives us an advantage. But at the same time the NBA has to protect its players in the league and the fans.”
Things have clearly been trending toward empty arenas for some time, and it was abundantly clear Wednesday morning when the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told a Congressional committee that he would recommend the NBA not allow fans at games in response to the coronavirus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was responding to a question asked by Rep. Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin Republican, “is the NBA underreacting or is the Ivy League overreacting?” Grothman was referencing how the Ivy League recently canceled its basketball tournaments, instead of having them without fans or keeping the status quo.
“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said. “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”
Marc Narducci and the Associated Press contributed to this article.