Drastic times are upon us. And the NBA wasted no time taking drastic measures.
The NBA on Wednesday made the bold decision to suspend the season barely a month before the playoffs will begin to safeguard everybody against the coronavirus.
The Mavericks finished their game against Denver at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night at 9:27 p.m. It is not known when the next game will be played, if at all, this season.
But that wasn’t what was on everybody’s mind after the Mavericks’ 113-97 win over the Nuggets.
“I was just stunned,” Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban said. “This is something out of a movie. And you don’t expect it to happen in real life. But that’s the randomness of the world we live in. It’s stunning, but we are where we are. And we have to be smart in how we respond.
“This is people’s lives at stake. This isn’t about basketball. This isn’t about the Mavericks. This is a global pandemic where people’s lives are at stake. I’m a lot more worried about my kids and my mom who’s 82 years old and telling her to stay in the house than I am about when we play our next game.”
The NBA had spent several days discussing options for dealing with the rapidly spreading coronavirus. On Wednesday night, the game in Oklahoma City between the Thunder and Utah Jazz was postponed when a Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, preliminarily tested positive for the coronavirus. In addition, the only late game scheduled Wednesday – New Orleans at Sacramento – was postponed.
The recent events made it clear that the league needed to shut down for a time to allow health agencies in the U.S. and worldwide to get a better handle on how to deal with the virus, also known as COVID-19.
Even before the schedule of games was suspended, the Golden State Warriors had announced that they would play Thursday’s game in San Francisco without any fans at the Chase Center. That game and all others now have been suspended until further notice.
The NBA said it would use the time without any game action to “determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Obviously, it’s much bigger than basketball,” Cuban said. “I’m concerned about will my kids have school or not? I’m concerned are we all doing the right thing because this is obviously new territory, certainly a black swan event in my experiences. So basketball becomes secondary.”
Asked what was next for the NBA and the Mavericks, Cuban wasn’t certain.
“Nobody at the Dallas Mavericks is an expert on infectious diseases or their spread,” he said. “This is not a situation where you try to sound or act important. The NBA has hired people with expertise in those areas and they’re working with people from the government and other people with expertise. We have to defer to them and that’s exactly what we’ll do.
“If one player, two players, whatever it is, already have it, we’ll have to act accordingly. I think the NBA made the right decision.”
Players were stunned by the idea of stopping the season just as playoff races are heating up. But they also understood what was happening.
“It’s better to be careful and do it now,” said J.J. Barea. “It’s tough.”
Said Denver’s Paul Millsap: “I think it’s a smart move for the NBA to do this. Safety of the players and fans is important. I think it’s the best thing for us to do right now.
“Obviously, it’s a scary situation. Everybody’s in shock. We really don’t know what to think right now. We’ll gather our thoughts and wait to see what happens. It’s a tough time.”
Cuban said players will be required to stay in Dallas. While games have been suspended, the league has said that team activities, practices, rehab assignments and other training sessions are permissible.
“When it’s something this critical, when people’s health and the safety of our fans and customers is at stake . . . we’ll go with what the NBA says because I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know,” he said. “And I’ll defer to those who do.
“We told them (players) to be very vigilant, that this is not a situation where the season has ended. We expect you to stay in Dallas. Bringing people in from out of town because you have downtime? No. That’s not going to work. You have to be accountable to the people you’re dealing with for your own personal safety and honestly, for everybody else. This is not a vacation. This is effectively self-quarantining everybody because it’s our responsibility to be vigilant. And the players are in a unique position because wherever they are, people want to come up to them.”
Cuban, by the way, has said he has begun the process of trying to help workers at American Airlines Center who will lose paychecks with the loss of games. He said he may ask for volunteer work in the community while paying their salaries.
As for when the league will resume some sense of normalcy, Cuban was unsure, but he did say that: “We have a lot of flexibility. I don’t want to speak for Adam (Silver, NBA commissioner) or the NBA. But in terms of the basketball side of this, we have a lot of flexibility because there’s nothing that happens after June 12, when we typically end our season. It’s more important for us to get it right.”