Pelicans pushed to cancel game vs. Kings after Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test
Wednesday, March 11 was a date that will forever be etched in NBA history. The Utah Jazz road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder had just been postponed after Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for coronavirus. The New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings were slated to tip-off next, only a half-hour after the Jazz’ game.
Pelicans’ executives quickly drew the lines. Official Courtney Kirkland had officiated Gobert recently, and he was among the refereeing crew that would hold the whistle for Pelicans vs. Kings.
The risk of infection was too great, and Pels brass was trying to cancel the game before it was too late.
“We have to shut this down,” a Pelicans executive told his fellow staffers, according to NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh.
Upon learning of Kirkland’s exposure, Pelicans staffers walked to the visitor’s locker room and made the players aware. One of them wondered aloud: “What’s the point of even playing this game?”
The Pelicans then decided as a team that they wouldn’t take part in the game and team officials instructed them to remain in the locker room. Kirkland had been isolated at that point and the national and local broadcast teams discussed Kirkland’s sudden disappearance and the game’s postponement openly on air.
The announcement soon came through the speakers:
“Ladies and gentlemen, out of an abundance of caution, at the direction of the National Basketball Association, tonight’s game has been postponed. We ask that you please exercise caution when leaving the arena.”
The NBA would soon after suspend the remaining games on the schedule, bringing the 2019-20 season to a screeching halt.