NBA suspends season due to coronavirus outbreak; owners preparing for no games until June, per report

After taking the initial step to play games in empty arenas, the NBA issued a statement on Wednesday night declaring that the 2019-20 season will be suspended "until further notice." The decision is a result of Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert testing positive for the coronavirus ahead of Utah's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which abruptly got called off. 

The NBA announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of Wednesday's game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, Wednesday's game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.
 
The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of Wednesday'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.    

News only got worse Thursday morning when a second Jazz player -- Donovan Mitchell -- also tested positive, which he confirmed on Instagram.

Gobert, who later apologized Thursday for his actions, had reportedly been careless in the locker room in terms of touching other players and their belongings despite warnings about the severity of the situation. Fortunately, Mitchell was the only member of the Jazz other than Gobert to test positive for the coronavirus Wednesday night, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Jazz confirmed the second positive test in the following statement released on Thursday:  

As a follow-up to yesterday's positive COVID-19 test, Oklahoma health officials tested all members of the Utah Jazz traveling party, confirming one additional positive outcome for a Jazz player. We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials, and the NBA to monitor their health and determine the best path moving forward.  

A flight carrying the Jazz has since returned to Utah, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, but it is unclear whether Mitchell or Gobert was on board. If they were, precautions would need to have been taken to protect the rest of the team from becoming infected. 

The contest between the Jazz and Thunder was the first of two games that was cancelled, as the game between the Pelicans and Kings was also called off. It is not known when, or if, the current season will be resumed at this point. NBA owners are encouraging of commissioner Adam Silver to reevaluate the league's suspension in 30 days, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.  The G League has also suspended play

While the 30-day timeline was always meant to be a placeholder, Sunday provided much grimmer odds of the NBA returning this season. The CDC has officially recommended that all gatherings of at least 50 people be postponed for the next eight weeks. Even without fans, an NBA game includes more than 50 people present. Assuming all ran smoothly in that timeline, the NBA would still be suspended through the beginning of May. In all likelihood, this is going to last longer. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA owners are preparing for the possibility of not resuming the season until late-June or July, with the NBA Finals then being played in August. 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made it known that teams are still allowed to practice, but are not supposed to have visitors from out of town. Cuban even told ESPN's Rachol Nichols he could "absolutely" see the season carrying into August. In addition, per Wojnarowski, teams who played the Jazz in the last 10 days have been told to self-quarantine. That includes the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder. 

This has all escalated very quickly as news on the worldwide spread of the virus has become increasingly dire. On Monday, it was announced that the NBA would be limiting locker room access to only essential team personnel -- including coaches, front office executives, basketball and PR staff -- before and after games. Additionally, creating six to eight feet of space between the players and media members during availability sessions outside of team locker rooms became a mandate. 

The Golden State Warriors became the first team to take the next step, announcing Wednesday that the team would play its home games without fans in attendance, in accordance with the San Francisco Health Office's order prohibiting groups of 1,000 or more people at events. Golden State's game against the Nets on Thursday night was set to be the first empty-arena game, and it was widely expected that other teams would soon follow suit. 

The fact that Gobert is the first confirmed NBA player -- at least reportedly -- to have contracted the coronavirus is exponentially more worrisome, or at least eerie, given Gobert's actions on Monday night. Obviously not knowing he had the virus at the time, Gobert thought it would be funny to make a point of touching all the microphones and recorders that were sitting on the podium at his media availability. 

This obviously looks really bad in hindsight, as Gobert certainly could have handled the situation more maturely. Now you start to do the math. When did Gobert contract the virus? How many people, inside and outside the NBA, has he come into contact with in the meantime? Clearly, the situation is still developing and more ramifications are likely to unfold in the coming hours and days. 

CBS Sports will continue to update this report as more information becomes available. 

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