A second Utah Jazz player tests positive for coronavirus, as a suspended NBA considers next steps

NBA basketball
CNN

A second Utah Jazz player has tested positive for coronavirus, the NBA team said Thursday, a day after the league abruptly suspended its season following news that the virus had impacted the Utah club.

Meanwhile, at least two teams that recently played the Jazz — the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards — say their players and staff have been advised to go into self-isolation as a precaution.

The NBA made several stunning moves late Wednesday, starting with postponing the Jazz’s game with host Oklahoma City Thunder right before tipoff, after learning a Jazz player preliminarily tested positive for the virus.

The league announced not long afterward that it would suspend the season after that night’s slate of games nationwide, and games in Oklahoma City and Sacramento never started, stunning fans who already were in their seats and adding to a long list of events altered by the virus’ spread.

Neither the Jazz nor the NBA have named the Jazz players who have tested positive. Earlier, ESPN and other media outlets reported that Jazz all-star center Rudy Gobert tested positive shortly before the planned game in Oklahoma City.

“As a follow-up to yesterday’s positive COVID-19 test, Oklahoma health officials tested all members of the Utah Jazz traveling party, confirming one additional positive outcome for a Jazz player,” the Jazz said Thursday.

“We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials, and the NBA to monitor their health and determine the best path moving forward.”

Four other NBA games were played Wednesday night — but one other, between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings in California, was called off because a referee assigned to work the game had previously worked a Jazz game, the NBA said.

The National Hockey League and Major League Soccer also suspended their seasons Thursday because of the coronavirus pandemic, with both indicating they hope to resume them eventually. The suspensions for an outbreak are unusual for professional sports in the United States, which is more used to seeing leagues stop or shrink seasons because of labor issues or, more rarely, in wartime.

Sports leagues and associations around the world, including the ATP Tour and soccer’s Serie A and La Liga in Italy and Spain, also have suspended play because of the virus.

President Donald Trump called the NBA’s suspension “pretty incredible,” but voiced support for it.

“It has an obvious effect,” Trump said in the Oval Office, where he was meeting with Ireland’s Prime Minister, when asked about the economic impact. “The only thing worse could be you lose thousands and thousands of people more than you would have lost than if you did it the way we’re doing it.”

Teams, reporters and others are retracing their contact with Jazz players

It’s not clear when either player contracted the virus. But the news has rippled across the league, with people in contact with the team retracing their recent interactions.

Gobert, after a Monday news conference, was seen playfully touching reporters’ microphones and phones before leaving his table. This was two days before reports of his positive test emerged, and after the NBA had placed restrictions on the interactions between players and the media.

It is not clear what symptoms, if any, Gobert had that day.

Other teams are considering the ramifications, too:

• The Toronto Raptors, who played the Jazz in Utah on Monday, said their players, coaches and traveling staff been “advised to go into self-isolation for 14 days.” The Raptors’ traveling party has have been tested for the coronavirus, and is awaiting results, the team said Thursday.

• The Washington Wizards, who visited the Jazz on February 28, have told players and staff to self-quarantine. “The decision was made with an abundance of caution,” the team said Thursday.

The Jazz played several other games recently: At Cleveland (March 2), New York (March 4), Boston (March 6) and Detroit (Saturday).

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said the league is making the right decision to suspend its season.

“Nobody knows what is going to happen next, but this is just a really scary thing,” Barkley told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Thursday, “I’m glad the NBA is shutting down.”

Reaction around the league

Evan Fournier, an Orlando Magic guard and a friend of Gobert, tweeted that he has been in touch with the all-star center.

“Was just on the phone with Rudy. He is doing good man. Lets not panick everyone. Love you all,” Fournier tweeted.

Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James, after having publicly gone back and forth about whether he’d be willing to play in empty arenas, reacted online late Wednesday about the news the league wouldn’t play at all, for now.

“Man we cancelling sporting events, school, office work, etc etc. What we really need to cancel is 2020! ” James tweeted. “Damn it’s been a rough 3 months. God bless and stay safe.”

Close contact makes coronavirus a concern for the rest of the league, Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said after the suspension was announced.

Casey and other figures in the league said the suspension was the right move until officials have a better grasp on the situation.

“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 the utmost importance that our fans, our players, and our staff we feel safe and are safe,” Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand said.

The NBA, like other sports leagues, had been considering playing games without fans. Before the suspension, the Golden State Warriors announced that its Thursday night game in San Francisco against the Brooklyn Nets would be played without fans.

The NCAA so far has said the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will still take place, but with only “essential personnel” and “limited family” in attendance.

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