NBA suspends season over coronavirus

Tim Reynolds
The NBA has suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus

The NBA has suspended its season "until further notice" after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league's owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas.

The Jazz player who tested positive was reportedly centre Rudy Gobert and the NBA announced on Wednesday the schedule would be suspended.

The test result was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off time for the Utah at Oklahoma City game was called off.

Players were on the floor warming up and tip-off was moments away when they were told to return to their locker rooms.

About 30 minutes later, fans were told the game was postponed "due to unforeseen circumstances."

The Associated Press understands the league could be closed down for at least two weeks.

"It's a very serious time right now," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

"I think the league moved appropriately and prudently and we'll all just have to monitor the situation and see where it goes from here."

The Jazz released a statement saying a player - they did not identify Gobert - tested negative earlier Wednesday for flu, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection.

That player's symptoms diminished as the day went along, but the decision was made to test for COVID-19 anyway. That test came back with a preliminary positive result.

The coronavirus has been a worldwide issue for several weeks. And now, it has hit the NBA.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he was stunned when the news came down, adding that "this is much bigger than basketball".

"This is a global pandemic where people's lives at stake," Cuban said.

"I'm a lot more worried about my kids, and my mum is 82 years old, and talking to her, and telling her to stay in the house, than I am about when we play our next game."

Before the season was suspended owners were largely in support of a plan to play games in empty arenas on a short-term basis.

But an hour later the Thunder-Jazz game was halted before tip-off and 90 minutes after that the season was called off.

There are 259 games, roughly 21 per cent of the schedule, left to play this season - and no one knows if, or when, things will resume.

The shutdown is the latest major development in a season filled with unspeakably hard challenges.

The league lost as much as $US400 million ($A619 million) in revenue after a rift with China was started in October when Houston general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern died in January, the same month that soon-to-be Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.

And now, a pandemic - which could also cost the league hundreds of millions in lost revenue, depending on how long it lasts.

Cuban said he expected his team to remain in Dallas, rehabbing and working and being ready to return whenever the league re-opens.

If the regular season ends here, it would be the end of Atlanta guard Vince Carter's 22-year playing career.

And just in case this was it, the Hawks put Carter in with 19.5 seconds left in overtime in what was already clearly going to be a loss to New York.

Carter took an open 3-pointer and made it - the Knicks, aware of the moment, didn't defend him either - and celebrated with Hawks teammates afterward after what may be the final shot of his career.

"A weird, but cool memory," Carter said.