Sports

NBA suspends season after player tests positive for COVID-19

NBA suspends season over coronavirus

(AP) — The NBA became the first major American sports league to suspend play because of the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions Wednesday night about the future of college basketball’s March Madness and other pro sports.

It looked as if the NBA might be moving toward playing in empty arenas before it announced that a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus and it had decided to pause its season after Wednesday’s games.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the Jazz player who tested positive was center Rudy Gobert. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team confirmed the presumptive positive test.

“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” the league said in a statement.

The test result, the NBA said, was reported shortly before the Utah at Oklahoma City game was called off. New Orleans at Sacramento also was postponed after the announcement.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said earlier in the day that only essential staff and limited family will be allowed to attend the upcoming NCAA basketball tournaments, draining the signature school spirit from one of the biggest events on the sports calendar.

But the organization could reassess its plans in the wake of the NBA’s decision.

Upcoming NHL games scheduled for Columbus, Ohio, and San Jose, California, and college basketball tournaments for the Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Atlantic 10 and American Athletic conferences will be played without fans.

The National Hockey League said it’s aware of the NBA’s decision and is continuing to consult with medical experts and evaluate options. It expects to have another update Thursday.

Also Wednesday, the Mariners said they will move their home games in March out of Seattle, the U.S. city hardest-hit by the outbreak; the team and Major League Baseball have not decided whether the games will be played at the opponent’s ballpark or a neutral site.

The Athletics announced they are working on alternate plans for their season-opening series at the Coliseum after the City of Oakland imposed a ban on gatherings of 1,000 or more people through the end of March. The team hasn’t said whether it was considering a different location for the games or playing in an empty ballpark.

And the Italian soccer club Juventus said defender Daniele Rugani has COVID-19 — the first player in the country’s top division to test positive. The team said Rugani and “those who have had contact with him” have been isolated.

The pinnacle of the college basketball season, the NCAA Tournament is a month-long festival of pep bands and face-painting and a cash cow that, along with football, helps fund non-revenue sports at schools throughout the country. The decision to play in fanless arenas will cost millions in ticket sales but preserve billions in TV rights fees.

The 68-team men’s tournament is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine has announced plans to ban “mass gatherings” to combat the spread of COVID-19, which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

“It will have a different feel but it will still be highly competitive, and the kids will still play like there’s no tomorrow,” said Bill Self, the coach of the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. “They’ll make the most of it. We’ll make the most of it.”

Elsewhere, the Ivy League canceled all spring sports, as many American schools told students not to return from spring break and prepare for classes to be taught online. The conference had already canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Other college basketball leagues went ahead with their postseason tournaments Wednesday with fans in attendance, although the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Big East, SEC, A-10 and ACC announced there would be no fans starting Thursday. The group that owns the Capitals said their games will go on — with fans — despite a D.C. Department of Health recommendation that “non-essential mass gatherings” be postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus.

Also bucking the trend toward caution: The major auto racing circuits also said they plan to race as scheduled this weekend, including a season-opening IndyCar event that is the centerpiece of a three-day street festival expected to draw about 130,000 people to St. Petersburg, Florida. There will be additional hand-washing and sanitizing stations.

NASCAR will race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as scheduled. Reporters will observe a six-foot buffer when interviewing drivers.

More than 1,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the United States, with 32 deaths; those rates are expected to continue to rise.

Most people quickly recover from the virus after experiencing only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

According to WHO, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

MLB

The Mariners and Major League Baseball have not announced where they will play the team’s first two series: against the Texas Rangers from March 26-29 and the Minnesota Twins from March 30 through April 1.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people in Seattle, which has experienced the most COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.

“While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration,” the Mariners said.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish thinks an MLB player will get the virus eventually, and when that happens, he expects MLB to suspend its season just as the NBA did.

A message was left seeking comment from Major League Baseball after the NBA announced its hiatus.

Despite his concerns about a player being diagnosed, Darvish said he was not yet urging MLB to postpone opening day, which is set for March 26.

“I’m not MLB commissioner so I can’t say anything about it,” he said. “But if I’m the commissioner, I want to see more, like one more week.”

ITALY

The governing body of European soccer said the games between Sevilla and Roma in Spain, and Inter Milan and Getafe in Italy “will not take place as scheduled.”

Italian soccer club Roma had said earlier Wednesday it would not make its trip to Seville because “the plane from Italy was not authorized to land in Spain.” Getafe President Ángel Torres had said his team would not travel to Italy because he did not want to risk his players’ health by going to an area struggling to contain the spread of the virus.

The Italian soccer federation ordered Italy’s women’s team to return home before the end of the Algarve Cup tournament in Portugal fearing it would not be able to get a flight back. On Wednesday, the Portuguese soccer federation canceled the final between Italy and Germany.

Italy had already suspended all sporting events until April 3.

SKATING

The World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal next week were canceled. The top skating competition for a non-Olympic year was scheduled to bring nearly 200 skaters from more than 50 countries to Montreal.

SKIING

Less than 24 hours before the first race, the International Ski Federation canceled the women’s Alpine skiing World Cup in Are, Sweden, handing Federica Brignone of Italy the overall title and denying Mikaela Shiffrin a return to racing this season.

Shiffrin, the defending overall champion, had announced earlier Wednesday that she would compete at the event after taking a six-week break from the sport following the death of her father. The absence cost her the lead in the overall standings.

FED CUP POSTPONED

The Fed Cup Finals in Hungary were postponed after the local government said it was prohibiting public indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. The International Tennis Federation said it would try to find another suitable date for the women’s tennis competition.

FRENCH LEAGUE CUP FINAL

The French League Cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, scheduled for April 4, was postponed. A new date has yet to be announced.

RUSSIAN CROWDS

Russian league games in Moscow will be limited to 5,000 people in the stadium under new health regulations in the capital. Besides fans, that includes players, team staff, stadium employees and security.

GYMNASTICS

The International Gymnastics Federation said it was postponing two World Cup events due to start next week. One is an all-around competition in Stuttgart, Germany, and the other is an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar. They double as Olympic qualifiers. The federation said it was also postponing a rhythmic gymnastics World Cup event and a trampoline World Cup event. Both were due to be held in Italy next month.

ESPORTS

A global esports league with teams in North America, Europe and Asia is canceling all matches through March and April. The Overwatch League had already postponed all events in China and South Korea due to the outbreak.

AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds in Miami, Daniella Matar in Milan, Italy, Mattias Karen in London, Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Jenna Fryer in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tom Withers in Cleveland, David Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, and Jake Seiner in Mesa, Arizona, contributed to this report.

Indiana coronavirus timeline

  • March 6: Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) confirms the first case in Indiana. Officials say the Marion County resident had recently traveled to Boston to attend a BioGen conference as a contractor.
  • March 8: ISDH confirms a second case. An adult in Hendricks County who had also traveled to the BioGen conference was placed in isolation. Noblesville Schools announces that a parent and that parent’s children will be self-quarantining after attending an out-of-state event where someone else tested positive.
  • March 9: ISDH’s total of positive cases rises to 4. Avon Community School Corp. had announced on March 8 that a student tested positive; that case, along with another in Noble County, was confirmed by state health officials at a news conference.
  • March 10: ISDH’s total of positive cases rises to 6 as the state launches an online tracker. Purdue and Indiana universities suspend classes for two weeks beyond their spring breaks. Ball State University basketball fans learn the Mid-American Conference tourney will have no fans in the stands. Three businesses operating nursing homes in Indiana announce they will no longer allow visitors.
  • March 11: ISDH confirms four more positive cases in Indiana. The University of Indianapolis announces it will extend its ongoing spring break through March 22. The Indianapolis-based NCAA announces the men’s and women’s Final Four basketball tournaments will be conducted with essential staff and limited family attendance. The Big Ten announces all sports events, including the men’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, will have no fans starting March 12. Ball State University announces classes are suspended for the rest of the spring semester. NBA suspends all games, including the Indiana Pacers, until further notice. Butler University extends its spring break, after which it will go to virtual classes.
  • March 12: ISDH’s total of positive cases rises 12. Taylor University cancels international and domestic spring break trips for students and faculty sponsors. Indianapolis’ annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is canceled. Gov. Eric Holcomb announces new protections that led to extended public school closings and the cancellation of large events across the state. The league including the Indy Fuel hockey team suspends its season. Indy Eleven says it will reschedule four matches, including its April 4 home opener. The NCAA cancels the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The Big Ten suspends all sporting events through the winter and spring seasons.
  • March 13: Gov. Holcomb announces additional actions — they included eliminating Medicaid co-pays for COVID-19 testing and lifting regulations limiting the number of work hours per day for drivers of commercial vehicles — to help stop the coronavirus. Wayzata Home Products, a Connersville cabinet maker, shut down and lays off its entire workforce due to market uncertainty associated with the coronavirus. The Indiana High School Athletic Association postpones the boys basketball tournament. Franklin College says it will have no in-person classes March 16 and 17, start online classes March 18 through at least April 5 and empty residence halls of students by 5 p.m. March 15. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis says it will be closed March 14-28. The Indianapolis Public Library joins other libraries across Indiana and says it will close all facilities until further notice beginning at 5 p.m. March 14.
  • March 14: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 15. The Indiana Gaming Commission says all licensed gaming and racing operations will close 14 days starting March 16.
  • March 15: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 19, with 121 tested. St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis announces all elective, non-urgent surgeries are canceled as of Tuesday.
  • March 16: Gov. Eric Holcomb announces the first Hoosier death. ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 24. Holcomb closes bars, restaurants and nightlubs to in-person patrons, while carryout and delivery services will still be allowed.
  • March 17: ISDH announces the second Hoosier death. Indiana’s Catholic bishops announce the cancellation of Sunday and weekday public masses. Gov. Holcomb activates the National Guard to assist as needed with the virus response. Purdue, Butler and Indiana State universities cancel May commencement ceremonies.
  • March 18: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 39. Eli Lilly and Co. says it will use its labs to speed up testing in Indiana for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The 500 Festival announces suspends all planned, in-person events scheduled through May 9. Simon Property Group closes all malls and retail properties until March 29.
  • March 19: ISDH’s total number of positive cases rises to 56. Gov. Holcomb extends Indiana’s state of emergency into May. Holcomb says all K-12 public schools will be closed until May 1 and nonpublic schools also are to close. Standardized testing was canceled. The state’s income-tax and corporate-tax payment deadline was extended to July 15. Holcomb says the state will waive job search requirements for people applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament was canceled. The Marion County Emergency Operations Center upgrades to Level 1 status.
  • March 20: ISDH reports the third Hoosier death and 23 new cases for a total of 79. Gov. Holcomb moves the state’s primary election to June 2. Indiana University says it is postponing May commencement ceremonies on all campuses. Indiana University Health says it can do limited virus testing.
  • March 21: ISDH reports the fourth Hoosier death, and 47 new cases positive for a total of 126. A total of 833 people have been tested for the virus. Indiana National Guard details how it’s working with the Department of Transportation on distribution of medical supplies to hospitals.
  • March 22: Indiana’s death toll rises to 7. ISDH reports 75 more positive cases.
  • March 23: ISDH reports 259 cases of COVID-19, up from 201 a day earlier. Gov. Holcomb orders Hoosiers deemed nonessential to “stay at home” from March 24-April 7. Eli Lilly & Co. begins drive-thru testing for the coronavirus for health care workers with a doctor’s order. Ball State University cancels the May commencement.
  • March 24: Indiana’s death toll rises to 13. Fred Payne of Indiana Workforce Development says any Hoosiers out of work, including temporary layoffs, are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • March 25: Indiana’s death toll rises 17. Indianapolis Motor Speedway announces the Indianapolis 500 is moved to Aug. 23. IndyGo suspends fares and changes its ride schedules.
  • March 26: Indiana’s death toll rises to 25. Marion County adds 192 new positive COVID-19 cases, the most of any county in the state for the day, for a total of 484. Indiana has 981 confirmed cases.

MORE STORIES

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK