Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus; NBA announces it is suspending its season

Oklahoma City • Coronavirus has made its way to the NBA.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has tested preliminarily positive for coronavirus, The Salt Lake Tribune has confirmed. After the positive test was announced, the NBA suspended its season from Thursday forward.

Right as Wednesday’s scheduled Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City game at Chesapeake Energy Arena was about to tip-off, the Jazz received results of a preliminary positive test. As a result, the three officials and head coaches for both teams huddled up, and sent their teams off the court. After about 20 minutes, as OKC’s game operations team tried to keep the crowd engaged, the crowd was sent home. The public address announcer informed fans that the game had been postponed, told them “you are safe,” and requested they leave the arena in an orderly fashion.

Shortly thereafter, the league issued a statement saying, in part, “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.” A game in Sacramento was also postponed.

The Jazz later issued a statement, detailing the medical testing Gobert had gone through:

“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.”

Once the fans left the arena, crews wiped down the bench area for each team.

After the team came off the floor, Oklahoma health officials came to Chesapeake Energy Arena to test the Jazz players, staff, and traveling personnel — including media — for COVID-19. All in all, the process took about six hours to test everyone, before the team left the arena shortly before 1 a.m. MT Thursday. The Oklahoma City Thunder left the arena at about 9 p.m. MT, and were allowed to go home.

The team is expected to charter flight back to Utah midday Thursday, with results on the tests coming at about the same time.

There was some initial confusion as to Gobert’s availability for the game, with coach Quin Snyder originally telling reporters that Gobert was out due to illness. Then, his status changed to “questionable,” before ruling him out officially about 15 minutes before tip-off was scheduled. The state of Oklahoma received testing results on Gobert’s sample as the players were on the court for warmups, information which quickly was passed to the teams and the NBA.

Shams Charania of The Athletic, who first reported Gobert’s positive test, cited sources in saying, “Gobert is feeling good, strong and stable — and was feeling strong enough to play tonight.” But when Gobert’s positive test came in, circumstances changed for Gobert and the rest of the NBA.

Johns Hopkins researchers learned that the median incubation period for COVID-19 is 5.1 days, but can last up to two weeks. Over the last two weeks, the Jazz have played in Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, along with road games in Detroit, Boston, New York, and Cleveland.

ESPN reported late Wednesday that players from teams the Jazz have played within the last 10 days are being told to self-quarantine, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Raptors. The NBA’s G-League also suspended its schedule

One of Gobert’s actions on Monday has become somewhat notorious on social media, during his address to the media following Monday’s shootaround. With new media protocols in place mandating a distance of 6-8 feet separating player from media members, Gobert sat at a table and answered questions. At its conclusion, in what was meant to be a lighthearted moment, he stood up and playfully poked each microphone and digital recorder on the table.

The Jazz had 18 games remaining in their 82-game schedule before Thursday’s contest. It’s still undetermined if or when those games, including those at Vivint Arena and on the road, will be played.

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.

Things have clearly been trending toward 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.

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. Now, it has hit the NBA and the Jazz.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.