Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Report: Pelicans refused to play Kings in last scheduled game before NBA’s coronavirus hiatus


SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 11: Referee Marc Davis (left) speaks on the phone as he stands next to Justin Van Duyne gather at mid-court before the Sacramento Kings game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Golden 1 Center on March 11, 2020 in Sacramento, California. The game was postponed due to the corona virus. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Getty Images

When the NBA suspended its season the night of March 11, the hiatus was planned to begin the next day. After all, most of the March 11 games outside Oklahoma City – where Rudy Gobert’s coronavirus diagnosis led to cancellation of Jazz-Thunder and sent the league scrambling into action – were near completion.

Only one game that night had yet to tip off – Pelicans at Kings.

Referee Courtney Kirkland, who was scheduled to work that New Orleans-Sacramento game, had just officiated Gobert in the Jazz’s loss to the Raptors two days prior.

The Kings reportedly still wanted to play. The league was at least initially on board.

Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports:

There were only about 20 minutes remaining until tipoff, according to those present. Upon learning of Kirkland’s exposure to an infected player, Pelicans staffers walked to the visitor’s locker room and informed the players. One player wondered aloud, according to sources, “What’s the point of even playing this game?” It was decided as a team that they wouldn’t participate in the game, according to sources. Remain in the locker room, team officials instructed.

That’s part of a fuller look into what happened in Sacrament that night. I suggest reading it.

The game was eventually canceled – probably because the Pelicans forced the league’s hand. Kirkland tested negative for coronavirus.

But a big question remains: How did the NBA – which boasts about being on top of this crisis – nearly let this game happen?

Though it’s worth exploring the details and thought processes, it’s easy to guess at the underlying $ource of motivation.