SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The last scheduled NBA game before the league planned to suspend the season because a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the new coronavirus was postponed at the last minute because one of the officials worked a game with the infected player.
Officials announced that the game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings had been postponed Wednesday night just minutes before the scheduled tipoff. The league said the decision was made out of an “abundance of caution” because official Courtney Kirkland had worked the Jazz game Monday night.
Utah star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team had confirmed the identity of the player publicly.
The positive test result was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off between the Jazz and Thunder. The NBA then announced it was suspending the season until further notice after Wednesday night’s games. But the decision came even sooner as part of a rapidly changing environment in reaction to the spread of the virus.
The Sacramento Kings released a statement after fans were already in their seats for the game at the Golden 1 Center:
Out of an abundance of caution and at the direction of the NBA tonight’s game has been postponed. Please exercise caution when departing the arena and check Kings.com for more information in the coming days. Thank you.Sacramento Kings
Fans booed the announcement but also understood the decision.
“We drove three hours to the game,” said J.D. Delgado, from Ukiah. “All I know is that this is serious. It’s definitely serious because they found out at the last minute and wouldn’t let anyone else in the building. So if it’s a last-minute thing they are not going to risk it.”
The Pelicans never made it out as a team for pregame warmups as team officials were packing up the locker room instead of preparing for the game. Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball did go out on the court to take some shots once the postponement was announced but then left with the rest of their teammates.
“I think it’s also important to understand that this is not a minor thing by any stretch of the imagination, not just in this country but in the world,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said before the announcement. “You have to do whatever you have to contain it and manage it as best you can.”
Kings coach Luke Walton said players have been given the option to be tested if they were concerned but no one on the team had shown a fever or any other symptoms of the illness.
He said before the announcement that season would be suspended that his players seemed to be handling the situation as well as possible but he was concerned for the severity of the situation.
“It’s sad,” Walton said. “They’re people dying. They’re people getting sick. We’ve talked about it as a group. As far as where we’re at with our minds and ready to play basketball, we seem to be fine.”
This story is developing. Check back for updates.