OKLAHOMA CITY — The NBA suspended its season Wednesday and postponed the Jazz-Thunder game after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus in Oklahoma City.
Gobert’s condition was only reported after the game was postponed, two days following a press conference in Utah in which, making light of the virus, he put his hands on every surface and recording device he could reach.
In Oklahoma, in the hour after the Chesapeake Energy Arena emptied Wednesday, it was reported by several media outlets, led by The Athletic, that both the Jazz and Thunder remained in their locker rooms, under self-quarantine, waiting to be tested. The Oklahoman reported just after 10 p.m. that Thunder players had left the arena, but the Jazz remained.
There is no immediate threat to the public, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which stated in a release "those who were in attendance at the game are not at risk of catching COVID-19. As a reminder, COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets. Only individuals who are in close contact with a person with COVID-19 would be at risk of exposure."
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN. Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings. Now a Jazz teammate has tested positive.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
On Thursday morning, ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus. "Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings," he wrote.
The Oklahoman reports Mitchell worked out Wednesday at Del City High School, and boys basketball coach Lenny Hatchett tweeted a photo of the NBA star standing with his son at the Oklahoma City gym.
I see why @spidadmitchell is an #NBAAllstar & one of the best in the league. He puts in that extra time, working on his craft! Pleasure to meet him & thanks for visiting with my son! Much respect! #ClockIn pic.twitter.com/0Oynlb8aAX— Lenny Hatchett (@CoachHatchett) March 11, 2020
The fallout in the sports landscape from coronavirus, or COVID-19, had been felt mainly on the international level until Wednesday afternoon, when the NCAA barred fans from its upcoming championships.
Hours later, a mystery ensued in Oklahoma City moments after starters from the Jazz and Thunder had been introduced.
Originally, Thunder medical staffer Donnie Strack conferred with game officials as music played, the fans stood and the teams prepared to tip off.
That conference lasted a minute or two before the three game officials began briefing Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan and Utah coach Quin Snyder.
That conference lasted a couple of minutes as well, and moments after it dispersed, both teams returned to their locker rooms.
The game was originally scheduled to tip off at 7:10 p.m. Central. It was 7:37 p.m. when Thunder PA man Mario Nanni announced it had been postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances.”
Long before the game was called, measures had been taken in response to the virus’ threat that could be felt by players, coaches, media and arena workers.
In his pregame media session, a larger dead space between Donovan and media was created to avoid close contact.
Additionally, the Thunder locker room was closed to media prior to the game — and would have been closed after the game, per NBA guidelines set in place earlier in the week. This prompted Thunder center Steven Adams to take questions in the same room, from the same chair his coach had sat in a few minutes earlier.
For the first time all season, the media meal was served by actual servers. Many arena workers, not just in food service, were wearing gloves.
A statement from the Jazz Wednesday night read as follows:
“This morning a player … tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. The symptom’s diminished over the course of today, however, in a precautionary measure, and in consultation and cooperation with the NBA, medical staff and Oklahoma health officials, the decision was made to test for COVID-19.
“A preliminary positive result came back right before tip-off of the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City game … We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials and the NBA to determine how to best move forward as we gather more information. The individuals is currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City.”
It is not believed Gobert spent any time in the arena on Wednesday.
21C Museum Hotel Oklahoma City confirmed a guest preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19 and remains temporarily closed during a comprehensive cleaning.
"We are working with public health officials at the Oklahoma City Health Department to ensure that our employees and guests are informed, safe and well taken care of," read a statement on the hotel's website.
"The Oklahoma City Health Department will be reaching out to anyone who came into close contact with the individual. Health officials advise that the risk of transmission is low for those who have not been in close contact with this individual."
The Jazz played Monday at home, Saturday at Detroit, Friday in Boston and last Wednesday in New York.
Oklahoma City’s game was one of two that did not go off Wednesday night. Schedule to tip around 9:30 p.m. Central, New Orleans’ game at Sacramento was also postponed.
NBA games took place in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami and Dallas Wednesday.