Wednesday night saw the COVID-19 situation in the NBA reach a scary conclusion, with Rudy Gobert testing positive and leading to the postponement of Thunder-Jazz just before tipoff and, shortly after, the league announcing the season was suspended indefinitely.
Games scheduled for Wednesday were still going to take place, as in places like Dallas the Mavs and Nuggets finished out the game under the bizarre circumstances of learning, mid-game, the season had been suspended once the games of the night ended. In Sacramento, the game between the Kings and Pelicans was scheduled to tipoff at 7:30 PT, but after the news of Gobert’s positive test broke it was quickly realized that referee Courtney Kirkland had worked Jazz-Raptors just a few days prior.
As such, the Pelicans, rightfully, were pushing for the game to be called off and succeeded, as the game was announced as postponed shortly before the scheduled tip time.
This has everything to do with the Pelicans players. Word spread about official Courtney Kirkland, and it was a tipping point.
“Our guys don’t want to play,” one Pelicans source tells @TheAthleticNBA
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) March 12, 2020
It was always strange that they would tip-off a game after the league had made the call to suspend play indefinitely, as the reason to do so was the way things can spread rapidly around the league given the contact players, coaches, and referees have. With Kirkland having reffed a game with the Jazz recently, the risk outweighed everything else in playing the game and, ultimately, the right call was made.
Now the question remains how the league will move forward. Players, coaches, and referees around the league now need to be tested, but as we know the testing opportunities in the United States are slim and as such it’s not known how well they will be able to make that available to all — particularly noting the need for the limited tests elsewhere as this pandemic spreads. The expectation is that the season will be put to a halt for a month if not more, but we will learn more details as this all progresses.