Reality is setting in. The NBA is on hold, but that is only the beginning. The United States, like most of the world, is being engulfed by the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
The immediacy of the situation was thrust upon us Wednesday evening when the NBA suspended its season. The decision to push ahead with the Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans game was a bizarre choice, but according to a league source, the NBA made that call.
The game was going on as scheduled until the Pelicans learned that official Courtney Kirkland, who had called the Utah Jazz vs. Toronto Raptors game Monday, was also set to referee the game in Sacramento. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday and his teammate Donovan Mitchell announced he tested positive Thursday.
Despite having thousands of seats filled with fans gearing up for the most important game in Sacramento in over a decade, the building was cleared out and the game was canceled.
We truly have no idea if and when the NBA season will return. As of Thursday morning, we know that both Gobert and Mitchell have tested positive for the coronavirus. We don't yet know how many other players, officials or personnel, if any, also contracted the virus.
The Toronto Raptors have already sent their players home for a 14-day self-quarantine.
Sources: The Raptors have informed their players to self-quarantine for the next 14 days due to coronavirus situation. Toronto faced Utah and Rudy Gobert on Monday.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 12, 2020
The Washington Wizards, who played the Jazz back on Feb. 28, have asked their players to self-quarantine for the next three to four days.
The team played the Utah Jazz on Feb 28 and will self-quarantine for the next three to four days— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) March 12, 2020
Herein lies the issue for the NBA and so many others. The league is so much smaller than you think. The Wizards played the Kings four days later on Mar. 3. If a Wizards player or staff member contracted the illness from the Jazz, they easily could have passed this along to Kings players and staff without even knowing. This is only one tie to the Kings. There likely are more.
We have no idea as of today when Gobert and/or Mitchell contracted COVID-19. Eventually, the league may be able to close that loop, but there also is a possibility that one of these players contracted the virus from another team or a source outside the league.
The Kings have not announced plans to self-quarantine at this point, but everything likely is on the table as they learn more.
Sacramento has health care officials around the team and they have offered up testing to the players over the last few days. They are also monitoring the health of their players daily.
The Kings still are three-and-a-half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies in the standings with 18 games remaining. They are in a legitimate playoff chase, but the league is on hiatus for a minimum of two weeks and perhaps much longer, if games resume at all this season.
During the break, the Kings will get a rare chance to heal up. There is talk that teams will continue to practice during the downtime, which would allow the Kings to not only integrate Richaun Holmes back into the rotation fully, but possibly Marvin Bagley as well if he can return from his foot sprain.
The rest of the teams in the league are in a similar situation, as is the G League, which had its season postponed Wednesday as well.
It should be noted that we are in the opening 24 hours of the league’s new reality. We have no idea what the immediate future will look like for the NBA.
On Thursday morning, the Kings released the following statement:
“The health and safety of our fans, employees, players, partners and community has always been, and will always be, our top priority. While we are disappointed the season has been suspended, we fully support the NBA’s decision to postpone games. We will continue to stay in contact with the league, local, state and federal health authorities and medical experts as we closely monitor this public health crisis. During this period of increased focus on public health because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we ask that everyone continue to practice healthy habits as outlined by the CDC. We are incredibly grateful for the support of our fans and community as we face this unprecedented situation together.”
This is all new. Eventually, there will be a plan in place, but for now, we are all in the dark waiting for more information.
For fans currently holding tickets, they will be honored when the season resumes. If games are cancelled or played without fans in the arena, the Kings will either credit for future games or give refunds.