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Donovan Mitchell tests positive for coronavirus; Adam Silver unsure of season's future

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, right, takes a

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, right, takes a shot against Nets guard Garrett Temple on Nov. 12, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Credit: AP/Rick Bowmer

After being stuck in Atlanta for the night, the Knicks boarded a flight back to New York on Thursday afternoon. Like much of the NBA, they were unsure what was next.

Back in town, they deferred to the league to provide guidance about where they can go and what they can do. But in the long term, the entire NBA faces at least a 30-day hiatus after the decision Wednesday night to suspend the season after the first positive test for the coronavirus by a player.

On Wednesday, after a long day of discussing how to handle the pandemic, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was considering the options when Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive, prompting Silver to cancel the game the Jazz were scheduled to begin minutes later against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Moments later, Silver announced the suspension of the season.

After Jazz player Donovan Mitchell tested positive Thursday and another day of meetings took place, Silver set a hopeful but realistic tone.

Speaking on “NBA on TNT,” he provided some hope that the season can resume in a month. But when asked if the season could be over, he said, “Of course it’s possible. I just don’t know more at this point.”

As other leagues and college tournaments, most notably the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, followed the example the NBA set, shutting down on Thursday, Silver pointed out that there is so much we don’t know right now.

“I think we’re at the point now that this has been declared a pandemic,” he said. “And it’s virtually impossible to contain it. It’s going to be widespread and the NBA community is not immune and so it’s going to spread throughout our community as well.”

In a letter to fans, Silver said, "This remains a complicated and rapidly evolving situation that reminds us that we are all part of a broader society with a responsibility to look out for one another. That is what the NBA will continue to do, and we are grateful for your understanding and for being the best fans in sports.''

Silver said he had spent the two days in conference calls with the NBA’s Board of Governors and consulting with experts including Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the United States. He said that even Wednesday, there was uncertainty about whether it would be necessary to empty the arenas as a public health matter.

“In the two full board meetings I had yesterday and today, not one team raised the issue of money,” Silver said. “The entire discussion was about the safety and health of the players, the community around our teams. This hiatus will most likely be at least 30 days. We don’t know enough to be more specific than that. Then the question becomes is there a protocol, with or without fans, to resume games.”

That decision has been taken out of the NBA’s hands in many places, including New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday morning that gatherings of more than 500 people would be banned for the foreseeable future. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio then declared a state of emergency and added that venues such as Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center could be vacant for as long as six months.

“The last 24 hours have been very, very sobering,” de Blasio told reporters at a news conference. “Yesterday morning seems like a long time ago. We got a lot of information in the course of a day yesterday and a lot changed then, then last night it just seemed the world turned upside down in the course of just a few hours.”

The Madison Square Garden Company said in a statement: “We support Governor Cuomo’s decision and starting tomorrow night, our New York venues will only host events that adhere to the Governor’s very clear parameters. This is a fluid situation and we will be back with further details when available.”

NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum said in a statement, “NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and their partners are following the Governor’s call to restrict group gatherings amid COVID-19 concerns. The health and safety of our patrons and staff is our foremost priority.”

The Knicks provided no updates on their status, but The New York Times’ Marc Stein tweeted, “The NBA has notified its teams that all players are advised to stay in their home markets, remain home as much as possible and that teams are not allowed to hold group practices, meetings or workouts through at least March 16.

“The NBA, league sources say, has also asked team doctors and athletic trainers to check in at least once a day with players on their health status and use a “one player, one coach, one basket” rule if multiple players are working out at the same time in team practice facilities.”

ESPN reported that in a team conference call, Lakers players were told they can conduct individual workouts at the team facility — but that the team would schedule the workouts so players do not come in contact with each other.

Cavs’ Love giving $100G. The Cavaliers’ Kevin Love is committing $100,000 toward helping arena workers in Cleveland impacted by the shutdown resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, The Associated Press reported.

Love, who has been very open about his struggles with anxiety, said he appreciates that the outbreak can be “extremely overwhelming” to people and that the suspension of the NBA season has caused a “sudden life shift” for workers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the Cavs.

Most recent NBA opponents for Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz:

Monday: Toronto Raptors

Saturday: Detroit Pistons

Friday, March 6: Boston Celtics

Wednesday, March 4: Knicks

Monday, March 2: Cleveland Cavaliers

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