SAN FRANCISCO -- One day before the Nets were scheduled to play a silent game against the Warriors because fans were banned from Thursday night’s game at Chase Center, their season came to a screeching halt along with that of every other NBA team when the league announced play this season would be suspended following Wednesday night’s games.
At 9:30 p.m. ET, the NBA issued a statement announcing the move after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was diagnosed as having tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The league said the result was reported shortly before tipoff of a game between the Jazz and Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The game was canceled, and the crowd in attendance was asked to leave the arena.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the NBA statement said. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
According to a team spokesman, the Nets learned the news when the league issued its statement. They are expected to return to New York on Thursday, but no details were available. Reporters traveling with the team were expecting to attend a morning shootaround Thursday at Chase Center for both the Warriors and Nets, but that obviously was canceled.
The Nets were not expecting to issue any statements or make any executives, coaches or players available for comment immediately. Like the rest of the NBA, the Nets are recalibrating and trying to get their bearings in an uncertain environment because of public health concerns about the coronavirus.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Nets were informed their game with the Warriors would be the first pro sports event in America that would be played without fans because of the virus. The game was planned to be broadcast on television and radio, and members of the print media also were allowed to attend to cover the game, but they had to follow new protocols that the NBA instituted for Monday’s games requiring members of the media to stay six to eight feet away from players.
“Due to escalating concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, and in consultation with the City and County of San Francisco, (Thursday) night’s game vs. the Nets at Chase Center will be played without fans,” the Warriors said in a statement.
But the emergence of a case of an NBA player contracting the virus changed all the calculus. Now, the NBA season is in limbo as public health concerns take precedence over the results of sports contests.
So, a strange Nets season that began with the blockbuster news of them signing elite free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving continued to unravel. They became embroiled in a political controversy when they traveled to China for two exhibition games, suffered a plethora of injuries, including one that ended Irving’s season, and then, they fired coach Kenny Atkinson last Saturday and replaced him with interim coach Jacque Vaughn.
Now, their season is on pause while the NBA reacts to a pandemic that has weighty consequences extending far beyond the sports world.