Second NBA player contracts coronavirus as US sports shut down

Associated Press
·5-min read

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz has confirmed that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, publicly saying that he is personally dealing with the pandemic that has temporarily shut down the NBA and other major sports leagues.

Mitchell is one of two NBA players to have tested positive: The other is his Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive but has not publicly confirmed his diagnosis.

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A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that the 7-foot-1 Frenchman had tested positive. Gobert's test result was the one that prompted the NBA to indefinitely suspend the season.

Mitchell's positive test was not known until early Thursday, the first full day of the NBA's hiatus.

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, pictured here in action for the Utah Jazz.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in action for the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jazz players, staff and some beat writers covering the team were tested Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, where Utah was to play the Thunder in a game that was called off moments before tip-off once word about Gobert's positive test was received.

Also Thursday, the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors - teams that have all recently played against Gobert, Mitchell and the Jazz - all said that they were having some players and staff self-quarantine for as many as 14 days.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, another team that has recently faced Utah, said they are not mandating quarantines yet but would if any of their players exhibit troubling symptoms.

“Thanks to everyone who has been reaching out since hearing the news about my positive test,” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post.

“We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realise that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well being of those around them.”

Gobert’s bizarre stunt backfires

Gobert, it appears, was not among those behaving responsibly.

It started as a joke: Before leaving a media session at shootaround in Salt Lake City on Monday in advance of a game against Detroit that night, Gobert touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table, devices that reporters who cover the Jazz were using.

“You know, there's not much we can do right now,” Gobert said in that session when asked about how teams are dealing with the virus. And a minute or so later, before he ran out a side door, he touched all the recorders.

It isn't so funny now - not with two Jazz players now having tested positive for the virus, and with a league on edge. It is not known if Gobert is responsible for Mitchell contracting the virus, or vice versa.

“As a follow-up to yesterday's positive COVID-19 test, Oklahoma health officials tested all members of the Utah Jazz traveling party, confirming one additional positive outcome for a Jazz player,” the Jazz said in a statement Thursday before Mitchell confirmed that he was the additional player.

“We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials, and the NBA to monitor their health and determine the best path moving forward.”

Sport at standstill as virus fears paralyse US

Sport across the United States and Canada ground to a virtual standstill on Thursday with baseball, soccer and ice hockey leagues joining basketball by declaring an immediate halt to play as fears of the coronavirus upended the sporting landscape.

A day after the NBA shocked the US sporting world by announcing an indefinite suspension of the basketball season, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League all followed suit.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the start of the baseball season on March 26 would be postponed by at least two weeks while Spring Training games were suspended with immediate effect as the US grappled with what Manfred described as a “national emergency.”

The NHL meanwhile said it was stopping its season indefinitely, just as ice hockey heads into its crucial playoff season.

“Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup,” commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Major League Soccer had earlier announcing a 30-day halt to its competition.

In Florida, the ATP/WTA Miami Open was called off as Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez declared a state of emergency over the outbreak.

The hardcourt tennis tournament, one of the world's top events outside of the Grand Slams, was scheduled to begin with qualifying on March 23 and run through April 5.

The decision followed the cancellation of the Indian Wells tournament due to start in California this week. ATP Tour chiefs in London later declared a six-week suspension of the men's tennis calendar.

Other sports, meanwhile, were preparing to stage events without spectators following warnings from US health officials that large gatherings of fans posed a risk of escalating the outbreak.

with AFP