Coronavirus: What to know as NBA suspends season after Rudy Gobert reportedly tests positive for COVID-19

The 2019-20 NBA season has been suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The league announced at 9:31 p.m. ET on Wednesday that, following the games that night and until further notice, no games will be played while the league determines its next steps, as a Utah Jazz player has tested positive for COVID-19. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the player is center Rudy Gobert. On Thursday, Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell confirmed on Instagram that he, too, has tested positive. 

Below is a list of key things you need to know with the NBA season now suspended:

Is the season over? 

No. Suspending the season is not the same as canceling it. It is unclear what the rest of the season will look like, though, if it is played at all. 

When will games resume?

That is uncertain, but the shutdown could be lengthy. Teams were told by the NBA that a positive test would result in a 12-to-14 day quarantine for the player in question, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The incubation period of COVID-19 can be as long as two weeks, according to the CDC, which makes it difficult to identify people who have it. If it is difficult to contain the virus in general, it follows that it will be difficult to contain it within the NBA. 

The league expects the hiatus will last two weeks at minimum, per the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds.

Did the Jazz play on Wednesday?

No. They were scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the game was postponed. The announcement, however, did not come until after the scheduled tip-off time. Players, staff and fans had already filled Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

What happens with the players who had contact with Gobert and Mitchell?

Gobert wasn’t at the arena for the game, per the NBA, and didn’t go to shootaround in the morning, per ESPN’s Royce Young. He has been in close contact with his teammates, though, and both the Jazz and the Thunder were quarantined. Mitchell was at the arena Wednesday night. Utah players will not be able to return to Salt Lake City until the team coordinates plans with public health organizations in both Oklahoma and Utah, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski

Where this gets more complicated is determining who else will need to be quarantined. Utah played against the Toronto Raptors on Monday, and Toronto played against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, and the whole league can be connected this way:

For now, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons have been told to self-quarantine. The Jazz have played those teams in the past 10 days. 

The effects of positive tests for both Gobert and Mitchell could go far beyond all this. In addition to the players they competed against, the team staff that has traveled with them and the media that has covered the team, it’s worth thinking about everywhere he has been since he contracted the virus. For example, the Berkeley Beacon published a story on Wednesday about the Jazz practicing at Emerson College’s gym last week. If there are more NBA players who have COVID-19 and haven’t been tested, the scope of the spread could be much wider than we know. Fortunately, Mitchell was the only traveling member of the Jazz to test positive for the coronavirus, per Charania.  

What about the other games on Wednesday?

Four games, which were all in progress when the announcement was made, were played. The New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings were scheduled to tip-off at 10:30, p.m. ET, but that too was canceled. This decision, according to the league, was made “with an abundance of caution,” as referee Courtney Kirkland worked the Jazz-Raptors game on Monday. 

What about playing the games without fans?

This seemed to be the direction the league was heading. As recently as Wednesday evening, commissioner Adam Silver was expected to make an announcement on Thursday that games would continue in empty arenas, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Things changed quickly when Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

What’s the rationale for suspending games? 

The goal is to limit the spread of the virus. Several cities in the United States had already banned large public gatherings, as social distancing is generally an effective way to “flatten the curve” when it comes to the number of infections. In the case of COVID-19, Taiwan has set an example in terms of being proactive, containing the virus and avoiding overwhelming the healthcare system. 

Wasn’t Gobert the player who was joking about all of this?

Yes, the NBA’s “patient zero” touched the recorders and microphones in front of him after his media availability on Monday. In retrospect, not great. 

What about practices? 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said that the league has informed teams that they can still hold practices, but players have been told they shouldn’t have visitors from out of town, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon

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