NBA Suspends Season After Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The NBA suspended all games until further notice Wednesday night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The test result came just ahead of tip-off for the Jazz’s game at the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game was canceled.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

It marks a stunning turn of events for the league, which was widely expected to move forward with games in empty arenas starting Thursday. The Golden State Warriors had already announced that the team would host the Brooklyn Nets at the Chase Center in San Francisco with no fans in attendance.

The hiatus will be a massive financial hit for the NBA, assuming that most, if not all, remaining 2019-20 regular-season games are never played. Most teams have 16 or so scheduled games left ahead of the playoffs next month.

It marks a stunning turn of events for the league, which was widely expected to move forward with games in empty arenas starting Thursday. The Golden State Warriors had already announced that the team would host the Brooklyn Nets at the Chase Center in San Francisco with no fans in attendance.

The hiatus will be a massive financial hit for the NBA, assuming that most, if not all, remaining 2019-20 regular-season games are never played. Most teams have 16 or so scheduled games left ahead of the playoffs next month.

Clubs generated more than $2.5 billion last season from their arenas from tickets, suites, parking and concessions, excluding the playoffs. Wiping out one-fifth of the season would mean a loss of $500 million. The tab could approach $1 billion when you factor in make-goods on sponsorship packages and TV rights deals. A cancellation of the playoffs would push it higher.

When the Warriors were planning on playing fan-free games, team president Rick Welts said the financial loss for Golden State would be in the “tens of millions” of dollars.

There were concerns across the NBA about what would happen if a player tested positive. The player’s entire team would have to be quarantined, along with recent opponents, causing a ripple effect through the league.

The NBA changed its media rules this week to protect players from the coronavirus. Reporters were banned from locker rooms, and all interviews required at least six feet between players and reporters.

The NHL issued its own statement Wednesday night following the NBA’s decision, saying: “The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow.”

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which kicks off next week and culminates in early April with the Final Four in Atlanta, is still on track, but NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that games would be played in front of only essential staff and limited family members. The NCAA extended its TV rights contract in 2016 with CBS and Turner Sports. The latest agreement is worth $8.8 billion over eight years.

The French-born Gobert, taken in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft, was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year each of the past two seasons. He signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension with the Jazz in 2016 that pays him $24 million this season.

The NBA playoffs were scheduled to start April 18, with the NBA Finals tipping off June 4. It is now unclear if any more pro basketball games will take place this season.

Forbes

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