Jazz-Thunder postponed, NBA suspends season

Basketball fans react after it is announced that an NBA basketball game between Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City has been postponed, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyle Phillips)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Utah’s scheduled game at Oklahoma City was postponed Wednesday night and the NBA suspended its season a few minutes later after a Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.

The player is star center Rudy Gobert, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team had confirmed it publicly. The Oklahoma Department of Health said in a tweet that the fans who attended the game are not at risk because the virus is spread through respiratory droplets, and only individuals in close contact would be at risk.

The positive test result was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off between the Jazz and Thunder. The league said the affected player was not in the arena.

The Jazz released a statement saying a player — they did not identify Gobert — tested negative Wednesday morning 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.

The Thunder said Oklahoma City’s players left the arena a few hours later, but the Jazz remained in quarantine three hours after the game was called. The Thunder said their players were not tested for coronavirus, and that they are following the direction of the NBA and health officials.

Things appeared to be going normally at first. The starting lineups were announced, and the teams were preparing to step onto the floor. Then, after conversation among the officials, the teams went back to the locker rooms and the officials left the floor.

The Thunder mascot and their hype crew, the Storm Chasers, tried to keep a full house of fans entertained during the delay. The halftime entertainment was moved up. Finally, the announcement that the game was called off came about 35 minutes after the scheduled start time.

The public address announcer told the fans only that the game was postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

There was no postgame media availability.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said before the game that he was confident in NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s leadership.

“I think the thing that everybody is looking at right now is the safety and the health, not only of the players, but of fans and everybody,” he said. “Obviously, this has gotten into a situation where it certainly has a lot of people really, really nervous. Everybody should try to take the proper precautions.”

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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