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NBA season suspended after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan meets with officials before an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz was postponed in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
AP

OKLAHOMA CITY — The NBA season has been suspended indefinitely after a Utah Jazz player, whom the Deseret News has confirmed through league sources is center Rudy Gobert, tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania was first to report that it was Gobert who tested positive.

Gobert was listed as out for the Jazz’s Wednesday night road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder because of illness, although no specifics were given as tipoff time approached. Moments before the contest was set to begin, however, the game was stopped and later postponed.

“The NBA announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19,” the league said in an announcement. “The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of tonight’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.

“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.”

The Jazz later released a statement that read: “This morning a player on the Utah Jazz tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. The individual’s symptoms diminished over the course of today, however, in a precautionary measure, and in consultation and cooperation with NBA medical staff and Oklahoma health officials, the decision was made to test for COVID-19.

“A preliminary positive result came back right before tip-off of the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City game. Subsequently, the decision was correctly made by the NBA to postpone the game. When it was determined that the individual would be tested, we immediately informed the league office. The health and safety of our players, our organization, those throughout our league, and all those potentially impacted by this situation are paramount in our discussions.

“We are working closely with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Oklahoma and Utah state officials and the NBA to determine how to best move forward as we gather more information. The individual is currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City. In coordination with the NBA and state officials, we will provide updates at the appropriate time.”

Charania reported that Gobert was “feeling good, strong and stable — and was feeling strong enough to play tonight.”

There was no player or coach media availability at Chesapeake Energy Arena following the cancelation of the game, and players were quarantined in their respective locker rooms before getting tested for the virus.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young reported that after players were all tested, they still had to stay at the arena, as they were not allowed to fly back to Salt Lake City.

Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported that Jazz 2019 second-round picks Jarrell Brantley and Miye Oni — who have gone back and forth between the Jazz and the NBA G League’s Salt Lake City Stars this season and were with the Jazz last week — were waiting Wednesday night to be tested for the virus while they’re with the Stars in Arizona.

The Stars were scheduled to play the Northern Arizona Suns on Wednesday, but the game was postponed. Late Wednesday night, the G League announced that it too was going to be suspended indefinitely.

Wojnarowski reported at approximately 9:25 MDT Wednesday that “the Jazz will need to coordinate with Oklahoma and Salt Lake City public health organizations before they can return to Utah, per sources. For now, the team is quarantined in OKC.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox — the latter of whom is leading the Utah Coronavirus Task Force — released a statement after receiving word that a Jazz player had tested positive for the virus, which indicated that the entire team was being screened for it as a “precautionary measure.”

“We wish this player a full and speedy recovery, and appreciate the work of health officials in Oklahoma to test a member of the Utah Jazz for COVID-19, as well as their prudent decision to test the entire team at this time.

“The preliminary positive result came back just before tip-off of the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City game, and we have been in touch since that time. The preliminary result will now be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

“We are working closely with the CDC and the NBA to gather more information on this case. We, along with the Utah Department of Health, are actively working to identify how long the patient has been experiencing symptoms, and are working to identify individuals who have had close enough contact with the player as to have been potentially exposed.

“For now, we urge individuals who think they may have been exposed to contact their health care provider via phone call or telehealth service, particularly if they are experiencing symptoms.”

In a video from Monday that has been circulated on social media, Gobert can be seen touching numerous items of audio equipment after he was interviewed following Utah’s shootaround before it played the Toronto Raptors at Vivint Arena.

In addition to the Jazz-Thunder game, there were five others on the NBA’s schedule Wednesday night. A few of them were completed by the time the NBA officially suspended the season, and a few were in progress.

The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans were scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m. MDT, but the game was postponed minutes before it was set to begin.

The Jazz and Pelicans were scheduled to play on Friday night at Vivint Arena.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that teams the Jazz have played over the past 10 days — the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Raptors — have been instructed to self-quarantine.