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NBA suspends season until further notice over coronavirus

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice" after a Utah Jazz player tested positive Wednesday for the coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 11, 2020 8:47 PM
Updated: Mar 11, 2020 9:57 PM

MIAMI (AP) — The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice" after a Utah Jazz player tested positive Wednesday for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league's owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas.

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. EDT. “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.

“It's a very serious time right now," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think the league moved appropriately and prudently and we'll all just have to monitor the situation and see where it goes from here."

The Jazz released a statement saying a player — they did not identify Gobert — tested negative earlier Wednesday for flu, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. That player's symptoms diminished as the day went along, but the decision was made to test for COVID-19 anyway. That test came back with a preliminary positive result.

“The individual is currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City," the Jazz said, adding that updates would come as appropriate.

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.

“This is crazy," Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson said on Twitter.

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego, speaking before his team's game at Miami, said “these are scary times.”

Rapidly evolving times, as well. Around 7 p.m., a person with knowledge of the situation told AP that owners — who met by teleconference Wednesday — were largely in support of a plan to play games in empty arenas on a short-term basis.

About an hour later, the Thunder-Jazz game was halted before tip-off. And about 90 minutes after that, the season was called off, effective when the last whistle was to blow Wednesday night.

That came even earlier than planned: The last game of the night's six-game slate, New Orleans at Sacramento, was called off as well. There are 259 games, roughly 21% of the schedule, left to play this season — and no one knows if, or when, things will resume.

“We believe in the leadership of the league,” Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand said.

The shutdown is the latest major development in a season filled with unspeakably hard challenges. The league lost as much as $400 million in revenue after a rift with China was started in October when Houston general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern died in January, the same month that soon-to-be Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.

And now, a pandemic — which could also cost the league hundreds of millions in lost revenue, depending on how long it lasts.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, the health and safety of our fans, employees, players and partners is our top priority and thus we fully support the NBA’s decision to postpone games," Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “We will continue to stay in contact with the league, and local, state and federal health experts as we closely monitor this public health crisis."

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 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.

Robinson added, “but at the same time the NBA has to protect its players in the league and the fans.”

Things were trending toward games in 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.”

That was when the concern was about crowds and containment.

By the close of business Wednesday in the NBA, the concern was so much more.

“This is surreal,” Borrego said. “This is reality for us now. It's no longer just on TV somewhere. This is now home."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86722

Reported Deaths: 1994
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25264915
Ramsey10267314
Dakota6942124
Anoka5531131
Stearns362923
Washington345955
Scott232532
Olmsted223726
Nobles191416
Blue Earth15406
Wright14777
Carver13037
Rice12798
Mower12534
St. Louis123329
Clay119940
Sherburne105013
Kandiyohi9082
Winona72718
Lyon6244
Steele5062
Freeborn4903
Nicollet48716
Watonwan4844
Benton4793
Todd4722
Le Sueur4403
McLeod4332
Chisago4151
Waseca4118
Crow Wing40218
Otter Tail3674
Beltrami3624
Goodhue3179
Martin2809
Polk2574
Itasca25513
Becker2352
Carlton2261
Isanti2210
Douglas2191
Cottonwood2130
Pipestone2059
Pine1980
Morrison1841
Chippewa1821
Dodge1820
Sibley1663
Wabasha1640
Brown1582
Unassigned15752
Meeker1552
Murray1492
Yellow Medicine1421
Rock1390
Mille Lacs1333
Faribault1290
Cass1203
Jackson1201
Renville1176
Pennington1071
Houston1050
Roseau1050
Swift991
Fillmore980
Koochiching983
Kanabec958
Lincoln930
Redwood910
Stevens911
Pope810
Aitkin691
Hubbard650
Big Stone640
Wadena610
Grant574
Wilkin553
Norman510
Lake480
Marshall481
Mahnomen441
Red Lake370
Lac qui Parle360
Traverse290
Clearwater240
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 76924

Reported Deaths: 1241
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk14988255
Johnson490727
Woodbury475459
Black Hawk425184
Linn3640102
Story321417
Dallas263238
Scott261427
Dubuque251840
Buena Vista191812
Pottawattamie189437
Marshall175234
Sioux12243
Wapello122057
Webster117914
Muscatine105152
Clinton102418
Cerro Gordo97721
Plymouth97520
Crawford9444
Warren9186
Jasper72032
Des Moines7137
Marion6874
Tama67830
Carroll6085
Lee5727
Wright5491
Henry5104
Dickinson4666
Bremer4497
Boone4346
Washington41411
Louisa41314
Franklin33017
Hamilton3123
Mahaska30919
Delaware3053
Jackson2803
Floyd2793
Winneshiek2745
Clay2663
Hardin2661
Benton2611
Clarke2533
Butler2512
Winnebago24711
Emmet24210
Shelby2381
Allamakee2355
Jones2313
Poweshiek2308
Clayton2243
Lyon2233
Buchanan2181
Cedar2101
Guthrie2095
Chickasaw1970
Kossuth1950
Grundy1932
Madison1922
Howard1764
Sac1760
Fayette1751
Iowa1741
Cherokee1732
Mitchell1720
Hancock1702
Humboldt1682
Harrison1642
Calhoun1612
Mills1541
Pocahontas1492
Palo Alto1480
Monroe1409
Page1400
Jefferson1291
Lucas1296
Cass1262
Monona1251
Taylor1171
Appanoose1163
Osceola1130
Union1123
Davis1104
Van Buren1081
Worth990
Keokuk841
Montgomery845
Greene790
Ida770
Wayne762
Fremont730
Adair591
Decatur580
Audubon501
Ringgold402
Adams270
Unassigned160
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