Just waking up with a little cold, light fever, just like I had 1,000 times before in my life.
Rudy Gobert didn’t feel well on March 10, a day after touching reporters’ recording devices in an attempt at a COVID-19 joke.
“Just waking up with a little cold, light fever, just like I had 1,000 times before in my life,” Gobert told ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “And I’m a guy that when that happens, you just work through it. You work it out and then a few hours later, you’re feeling fine and you’re able to play the game.”
In California, San Francisco mayor London Breed banned all gatherings of 1,000 or more people, including Golden State Warriors games.
The Warriors planned to play their March 12 home game against Brooklyn without fans.
“We implemented CDC guidelines two weeks before their declaration by the city. This was the cleanest arena in the world. Based on the advice that we got, we didn’t think we were putting people at risk. But the circumstances changed every day. So what I had expressed to the mayor that day was we were in this together,” Warriors president and COO Rick Welts said.
Even though players warmed up for the game, the Jazz were awaiting results of Gobert’s COVID test.
Then-Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari knew the impact the virus was having on his native Italy.
“I’m always the first player from either team to take the court for the opening tip, and usually when I get out there the three refs are standing in the same spots every time — one at half court, and then one near each free throw line,” Gallinari wrote for “The Players’ Tribune.” “But on this night I get out there, and the refs … they’re not around. So I know something’s up.”
Minutes before tip-off, Thunder vice president of human and player performance Donnie Strack ran onto the court and informed the officials a player had tested positive.
“It was a surreal moment when team doctor sprinted onto the floor letting us know we had to wait,” Lindsay said. “That was the moment when everything became real. I’ll never forget the eyes of 20,000 people staring at you. We were moments from throwing the ball up and here we are with the team doctor saying, ‘We need to buy time here. We’ve reached out to New York.’ That was the defining moment where I knew this was so much bigger than basketball.”
Then-Thunder coach Billy Donovan saw Strack talking with the refs.
“A lot of it I thought was just him helping the officials,” Donovan said at a coaches clinic in the summer. “‘Hey, if you need to keep the ball wiped down, if you need to wash your hands during a timeout, things are available on the sidelines for you guys.’ I just thought he was talking to them because we had had some education on how to do handwashing, sanitizing, that kind of stuff. Social distancing wasn’t in at that point in time.
“And then, right after that, while he was talking to the officials, one of our assistant general managers ran out there, and they were huddled up, and then I knew something was going on.”
In New York, Silver left NBA headquarters for his home around 7:45 p.m. ET, shortly before tipoff of the Jazz-Thunder game.
“On my way home, I received a call from Rick Buchanan our general counsel,” Silver said. “He said, ‘We just learned Rudy Gobert tested positive.’ I don’t think it was an accident the test result came right before the game. It had to be a government-approved lab test. I’m sure the team made clear to the health authorities that we have a game at 7 o’clock local time. We have to know before the game.”
Thunder owner Clay Bennett called Silver.
“Do you know what’s going on?” Bennett asked, according to Silver.
“Yes,” Silver answered.
“What are you going to do?”
“Give me a couple of minutes.”
Silver was in a car in front of his Manhattan apartment.
“It wasn’t absolutely clear to me that because a player who tested positive and was no longer with the team, therefore call the game,” Silver said. “We were trying to locate the Oklahoma City health commissioner to see if that person was going to mandate we shut down the game. In a matter of minutes not having heard from that person, I realized we had to err on the side of caution. There wasn’t time to have a board meeting so I made a decision that we had to call that game.”
Donovan Mitchell had been on the court warming up.
“We’re in the middle of a ’30 for 30’ to this day,” Mitchell said when the NBA season resumed in the Orlando bubble. “You’re going to look back on it and this is one of the craziest things that’s happened in sports. Not just in sports. This is one of the craziest things that’s happened in the world in our time.”
Oklahoma City health authorities mobilized and began testing Jazz players, coaches, staffers and media at the arena.
“The uncertainty surrounding all those things and first and foremost when we got tested, at that point, I don’t think anybody knew what that was going to be like,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “My guess is that the people who were doing the testing, it wasn’t something they were that familiar with doing. We just take it for granted now. I can tell you the test was a little different then. It felt like it went up into your brain. It was hard to keep from having a physical reaction. I’ve still got a few photographs of different guys being tested.”
At 8:37 p.m. ET, Thunder public address announcer Mario Nanni addresses the crowd: “Fans, due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed. You are all safe. And take your time in leaving the arena tonight and do so in an orderly fashion. Thank you for coming out tonight. We are all safe.”