NBA players — even the ones still finishing their Wednesday night games — were aware the league had suspended its season.
Not long after it was announced a Utah Jazz player, believed to be center Rudy Gobert, had contracted the coronavirus, causing the team’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to be postponed, players in Dallas for the Mavericks-Nuggets matchup were discussing it.
“I’m pretty sure everybody is aware at this point,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN in a mid-game interview. “Guys are talking about it on the bench.”
Upgraded to a pandemic on Wednesday, coronavirus has been a consuming topic in sports. The NCAA announced plans to play opening-round games without fans in attendance while the NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB began enacting policies to keep players, media and fans safe.
Cuban, who left his courtside seat to discuss the news with his front office team, spoke candidly about the situation.
“This is crazy, this can’t be true,” he said. “I mean, it’s not within the realm of possibility. It seemed more like out of a movie than reality.”
Hours before, it was reported that the league’s Board of Governors were already discussing playing games without fans — some teams had already begun doing so — or going on hiatus. Gobert’s situation pushed the league and commissioner Adam Silver into fast action.
“I trust Adam,” Cuban said. “It’s not about basketball or money, really. Literally, if this thing is just exploding to the point where all of a sudden NBA players and others have had it, you think about your family. You want to make sure you’re doing this the right way. Now it’s much more personal. The whole idea it’s come this close, potentiality a couple of players have it, it’s stunning.”
The league halting its season is an extraordinary measure, and one that came faster than expected. The news could put entire teams in limbo.
“Talking to some of the guys that weren’t playing, on the bench… ‘Look, I don’t think you guys are going to be able to leave town,’” Cuban said. “This isn’t like a lockout time, go enjoy and we’ll figure it out. No. The whole idea is, and I’m only guessing, the only way we’re gonna have any control over it, and making sure our players are healthy is if we know where they’re at and who they’re dealing with.”
Much like owners around the NBA and across sports entirely, Cuban has many bigger things to consider.
“It’s not about the team,” he said. “It’s about the country and life in general, you know? We have the pieces in place. I’m concerned, now that we’re not playing games, who about the people working here on an hourly basis. We’ll put together a program for them. There’s so many things that go through your head, it’s hard to know what’s right.”