NBA owners are beginning to consider the possibility that a mid-to-late June return is the best case scenario:
Covid-19 is a public health emergency, but thankfully, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley are doing their part to keep us entertained in a world without sports on TikTok:
Marc Stein (New York Times) on why the suspension of the NBA season wasn’t so sudden for Danilo Gallinari. “The NBA on Wednesday became the first major professional sports league in North America to suspend operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak, now a pandemic, but Gallinari, as Italy’s pre-eminent basketball export, had been consumed by the crisis for weeks. Only China, where the respiratory virus originated, has been hit harder by the outbreak than Italy, which as of Sunday had reported nearly 25,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,800 deaths so far. Among those deaths was the grandmother of Filippo Curti, Gallinari’s best friend from their childhood in northern Italy — the country’s hardest-hit region — in a town some 20 miles southeast of Milan. So when Gallinari, 31, spoke by telephone from his Oklahoma City condominium, where he is self-quarantined alongside his fiancée at the direction of team physicians and local health officials, he repeatedly brought the conversation back to Italy.”
Christian Wood is the third NBA player to test positive for Covid-19.
Jenni Carlson (The Oklahoman) says that Rudy Gobert has become an accidental hero in the fight against Covid-19. “So, Gobert was a goob. A moron. An idiot. No two ways around that. But in the days since his positive test sparked the shutdown of leagues and prompted a sit-up-and-take-notice response from Americans, he’s become something else, too. An accidental hero. You might think calling Gobert a hero, even an accidental one, is as foolish as him touching all those microphones. At best, you might argue, he was a catalyst. And I agree he was a catalyst for what has already been significant change in how the United States is attempting to flatten the curve. Blunt the spike in coronavirus cases. Limit the impact of this global pandemic. But make no mistake, Gobert is an accidental hero, too. His positive test is going to save lives.”
Barbara DeMaio’s first Thunder game will be one she doesn’t forget, writes Maddie Lee (The Oklahoman). “In the calm before the storm, DeMaio sat in her seat on the 100 level, holding up her bulging satchel. ‘I do have a thing of hand sanitizer in my purse,’ she said. DeMaio, 67, knew that because of her age, she was considered at risk to develop serious symptoms from COVID-19. She was concerned enough to bring hand sanitizer but not enough to pass on the ticket her friend offered her. After starting lineup introductions, the Storm Chasers, the Thunder’s in-game entertainment group, took the court for a T-shirt toss. The Raindrops, a kids dance team, performed. Then Frankie J, who was scheduled to sing at halftime, emerged. DeMaio checked her watch. It was a half an hour after the scheduled tip-off time. ‘I just couldn’t figure out what was going on,’ she said. ‘I thought, well maybe they do all this stuff before the game — I don’t know, I’ve never been to an NBA game before. I lived in Italy for 16 years; I don’t know what NBA games are like.'”
Ramona Shelburne (ESPN) goes inside the tense hours leading up to the suspension of the NBA season. “A handful of NBA owners, including the Warriors’ Joe Lacob, had pushed for a temporary postponement of games. Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett told his peers they’d be foolish to believe there were no players or personnel with the coronavirus, and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta suggested a three- to four-week pause while expressing frustration over the financial hit he’d already taken with empty restaurants and early-season issues in China. The majority of owners favored a plan to temporarily keep fans from games so the season could continue. Warriors team president Rick Welts had been studying the situation and meeting with local public health officials for weeks. In his mind, these precautions had become imperative. And as the business day closed on Wednesday, Welts ran through all the different scenarios with his staffers one last time. They were as ready as they could be. ‘But you know,’ Welts said to one team executive, ‘this could all change in a few hours.'”
After receiving a positive test for Covid-19, Gobert pledged to donate $500,000, of which $100,000 is designated for relief in OKC.
Gobert with an update:
Ethan Sherwood-Strauss (The Athletic) with some strong words about the NBA’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. ” Let’s hope this pandemic can be contained sooner rather than later and we return to sports, in all their relatively trivial glory. When that happens, the NBA might need a new approach. It would be helpful if the NBA seemed like a league that gave a damn about its domestic fans, as opposed to a league that mostly seems obsessed with player empowerment, international expansion and a social-consciousness branding that can’t stand up to China’s rebuke. A league that cared more about its home continent probably wouldn’t have exposed North American fans to serious health hazards up until the moment when the whole situation became an untenable public-relations disaster.”
Adam Silver and the NBA have no precedent to look to as they wade their way through what’s next for the league, says Sam Amick (The Athletic). “The fate of the NBA’s season hardly matters in the grand scheme of things, especially now that this pandemic is threatening the overall health of the country and world at large. But if you’re Silver and the rest of the league’s brain trust, and you’re trying to figure out whether the playoffs are still possible for this $8-billion-annual-revenue business, it would help to have clarity on how many of your 400-plus players are infected.”
Tony Jones, who covers the Utah Jazz for the Athletic, shares his experience being at the center of the NBA’s dealing with Covid-19 crisis–Jones was at Chesapeake Energy Arena and among the those quarantined and tested. “And there was more for us to worry about than the story. That made it a rare situation. Once Gobert’s positive diagnosis became official, my mind, and those of the other Jazz beat writers, raced: When had we been in contact with Gobert? When were we close? Of course, Monday morning’s viral press conference has been the talk on Twitter and social media. But Gobert had no idea he was infected with the virus. Everyone who had been in contact with Gobert wanted to know if they were OK. They wanted to know if they would have access to testing and that they would be taken care of. And everyone had questions. So many questions. The anxiety was high. The tension was thick. The chaos reigned, simply because of the spontaneity of it all. There was no protocol. There was no regiment. All we could do was wait.”
Erik Horne (The Athletic) gave his report of the surreal night in Oklahoma City. “The players made it through some of their pregame rituals. But Chris Paul never tucked in his uniform. He never made it to his customary place on the Thunder stanchion. That’s when Thunder Vice President of Human and Player Performance Donnie Strack rushed to the three officials in front of the scorer’s table. Thunder Assistant General Manager Rob Hennigan soon joined him. Players on each side stood waiting for an announcement as officials Pat Fraher, Ben Taylor and Mark Lindsay huddled. Thunder coach Billy Donovan and Utah coach Quin Snyder were called to midcourt where they playfully bumped elbows — the replacement for a dap or handshake in the weeks since the spread of the coronavirus. The players were then asked to leave the court. The officials exited next. This was officially cause for concern.”
Matt Moore has been tracking the teams that have pledged to support hourly arena employees during the NBA suspension. The Thunder are not on the list, which doesn’t mean they are not doing anything, but as of now nothing has been reported.